Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Now That's Italian

I am not sure if the low carb craze is over yet, like other fad diets that have come and gone, but I could never follow that type of diet because I LOVE bread. Love of bread runs in my family. My grandmother loved bread, my mom loves bread, and my sister is the queen of bread loving. At family dinners, she will always be found in the kitchen waiting for the homemade rolls to come out of the oven. It is definitely a genetic weakness. My love affair with bread is one of the main reasons I like to eat at Italian restaurants. Macaroni Grill has my favorite Italian bread. It has a variety of herbs baked in the bread and tastes wonderful dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  I found this recipe online one day when searching for breads and thought it might taste similar to the bread at Macaroni Grill. It called for only a small amount of whole wheat flour. I changed that and added olive oil instead of shortening. This bread is a hit with my family.

Italian Herb Bread

3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
7 1/2 cups hard white wheat flour
1 cup high gluten bread flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon dough enhancer
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tsp dried basil
2 1/2 tsp dried dill
2 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2/3 cup snipped fresh parsley

Dissolve yeast and one tablespoon of the sugar in warm water in large bowl or bread mixer. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and knead for 7 minutes. Let rise for 1 hour. Punch down and divide into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 10 x 8 inch rectangle. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seams to seal. Whisk an egg white and 1 tablespoon water; brush over loaves. With a sharp knife, make four shallow slashes across the top of each loaf. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. This bread works great to freeze the loaves before allowing them to rise. Just take out several hours before baking to thaw and rise and you can have warm homemade bread with your pasta.

I love this bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
It also makes great sandwich bread.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Crazy Thoughts of the Day

Whose crazy idea was it to have Katy Perry on Sesame Street? She certainly isn’t anyone I would want my preschooler to identify with fully clothed or not.

One of the craziest families on TV is the Heck family from The Middle. I had watched a few reruns of this show during the summer, and thought it was quite funny. Wednesday evening was its season premiere, and I was laughing crazy hard.

The "experts" featured on Nightline sharing their beliefs that all sugar is bad just seem a little crazy to me. Can you really put an apple and a package of skittles in the same category because they each contain the same amount of sugar? People who believe all sugars are bad, and therefore avoid fruit, but then think nothing of eating fries and a Big Mac just drive me crazy!

I have never watched Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. Even if I had cable I would probably find him a little bit of a potty mouth for my taste. As I watched him on Oprah this week talking about his Rally to Restore Sanity, I thought he had some good points. He said it is the craziest among us who get the attention in our society, and often lawmakers try to pass legislation to stop the crazies. But many of these laws seem insane and end up restricting the freedoms of the normal. His point - you just can’t legislate crazy!

One of my favorite children’s books is Flipped. I just happened to be watching the Today Show one day when Rob Reiner was on to promote the movie he directed based on the book. It was the first I had heard about the movie. He said it was in limited release, and so I began watching to see when it would be in the Salt Lake area. It came two weeks ago and is almost on its way out. This maybe a crazy idea, but it seems like Hollywood wants PG movies to fail. It had almost no advertising, and even many fans of the book weren’t even aware a movie had been made.

How many crazies are there on Survivor this season? Too many to count! I often wonder if some of these contestants have ever watched the show before they go on it. I am not sure who is crazier the person who takes a pair of shoes and after filling them with sand sinks them in the ocean and then confesses, or the person who brings a $1600 pair of shoes on the show.

How crazy would it be to be evacuated from your home and not know if your home will survive a raging fire? As my family watched the news Sunday evening about the Herriman fire, we were saddened for all the families who left their homes that day not knowing if they would lose all they had left behind. We listed all the things we would try to take with us. Of course pictures and keepsakes were the first things on our list. In my bathroom, I have a jewelry box that was handmade by a daughter and given to me on Mother’s Day during a time when I truly thought she hated me. Because it isn’t with all of our other memorabilia, it would probably have been left behind. I wonder how many things were left behind by the families who lost their homes, and just now they are realizing they lost something that was very precious to them. It is crazy how it is the things that cost the least amount that we would try to save.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Move Over Windex

Whenever I walk down the cleaning supplies isle of the grocery store, I feel a little nauseated by all of the chemicals and fragrances. I have always tried to buy fragrance free products, but even the chemical smells of many items would still make me feel queasy. My new thing lately has been to try homemade green cleaning products. For years, I have used vinegar to mop my floor and clean spills on my carpet, but it can be used for so many other chores around the home. The acetic acid in vinegar kills germs, mold, viruses, and bacteria. Vinegar is also a deodorizer, as you work with it; it freshens the air and neutralizes odors. A recipe for an all-purpose cleaner is quite simple and very inexpensive.

All-purpose Cleaner

Fill a spray bottle one-third full with white vinegar. Fill with cold water. Add 10 drops of your favorite essential oil (lemon, eucalyptus, orange, or tea tree are great for the kitchen and bathroom). It works great on tile, countertops, mirrors, and appliances.

Other ideas for vinegar include adding ¼ cup white vinegar to your washing machine’s rinse cycle to help rinse out detergent completely and leave clothes soft and reduce static cling. To freshen a toilet bowl, pour two or three cups of white vinegar into the toilet bowl, let it sit for a few hours, then scrub and flush. Vinegar can also be used to remove underarm odors from clothing. Vinegar is great for the hair after the pool to get out chlorine. Rinse hair with vinegar and then shampoo as normal. Equal parts of water and vinegar in a spray bottle make a good fruit and vegetable wash. Spray on produce, rub and rinse. The acetic acid in vinegar kills bacteria and helps to dissolve the wax and pesticide residues found on the skins of many fruits and vegetables. It is funny that Windex now boasts that it contains vinegar when actually all you need is vinegar to keep windows and mirrors clean.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The True Test of a Good Dessert

Many times I will try a new dessert and my family will say that they like it, but then it sits on my counter uneaten. I believe that I am to assume that they were just being polite, and I don’t need to make that dessert again. Every summer I seem to be trying to find the perfect chocolate zucchini cake recipe that will taste good when I convert it to whole grain and quite possibly the search has finally ended. I wasn’t so sure if the cake I made this past week was really good until it was gone in just two days.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Zucchini Cake

                          2 1/2 cups hard white wheat flour
                          1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
                          1 teaspoon soda
                          1 teaspoon baking powder
                          1/2 teaspoon salt
                          1 cup brown sugar
                          1/2 cup sugar
                          1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
                          1/2 cup buttermilk
                          3 large eggs
                          1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                          2 cups shredded zucchini
                          1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9x13 cake pan or bundt pan. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugars and butter until smooth. Add the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla; mix well. Add half the dry ingredients, stirring until evenly moistened. Stir in the zucchini and then the remaining flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. For bundt cake, allow to cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before removing cake from pan. Cool completely and drizzle with chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons corn syrup

Heat the heavy cream to a simmer, and pour over the chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir in corn syrup, and keep stirring until there are no more lumps and the mixture is smooth. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Produce Surprise

Several months ago, a friend told me about bountifulbaskets.org. It is a produce co-op run primarily by volunteers. For fifteen dollars, you get about 12 different kinds of vegetables and fruits. The baskets need to be ordered on Monday evening and picked up Saturday morning. The fun thing is that each week it is a surprise as to what interesting produce my family will get to eat. Sometimes it is something that I wouldn’t normally buy, and I get to find and try a new recipe. This week waiting for me was a cabbage. I have bought cabbages in the past, but I don’t buy them on a regular basis. I decided to make coleslaw. I tried a new recipe, and my family thought it was great.

Creamy Coleslaw

1 head green cabbage, chopped into small pieces ( I use the shredder attachment to my Bosche)
1 large carrot, peeled and finely shredded

Whisk together the following for the dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
dash garlic powder

Pour the dressing over the veggies, and mix well to combine. Store covered in refrigerator for several hours to blend flavors.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

No Disappearing Act

For the past several years, I have been collecting a pile of glass containers in my garage with the intent of recycling them someday. The pile was beginning to impede my daughter’s ability to get from her car to the house. The time had come to figure out where to take this load. It was really simple enough. There are several glass recycling drop off locations in the Salt Lake area. The easiest for me was at the Salt Lake landfill located at 6030 West California Avenue. They have several very large bins for glass, cardboard, plastics, and aluminum. The amazing thing about glass is that it can be recycled an indefinite number of times without losing quality or purity. When it ends up in the landfill, I have read that it can take up to a million years to break down. I am not sure how they figure a million years, but that seems to be general consensus by Al Gore and friends. Here is an interesting list compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy of how long it takes certain items to decompose in a landfill:
Banana peel: 3-4 weeks
    Paper box: 1-2 months
 Cotton sock: 5-6 months
           Wood: 10-20 years
    Leather belt: 40-50 years
    Aluminum can: 200-500 years
Disposable diaper: 500-600 years
                Styrofoam cup: 1 million years or more
                   Glass bottle: 1 million years or more

I was feeling a little bit of guilt for all the previous items that I have sent to the landfill. Well, maybe not for the disposable diapers. I like being green, but I don’t think I could ever do cloth diapers, so I am glad that I am past having to make that decision.  :)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Calling for a redo

I was one of the fans of The Hunger Games who had anxiously awaited the final book of the series. It was the first book I actually preordered on Amazon. If this had been the first book in the series, I wouldn’t even have finished the book. The first 180 pages were boring! As I was reading it, I just kept thinking that I should skip to the last chapter to see how the love saga between Peeta, Katniss, and Gale was resolved and get on with my own life. My daughter who read it before I did, just kept telling me to make it to page 200, and it would get better. Halfway through and it finally gets better? She was right, but even now as I have finished the book, I am still frustrated. Suzanne Collins spends way too much time giving us a feel for what it is like to live in district 13. She spends almost half the book when a mere 25 pages would have been more than sufficient. And then I didn’t feel like the corruption she alludes to in 13 was adequately resolved after spending almost the entire first half on its bizarre policies. Peeta seems missing for too much of the book. I love Peeta! I wanted more Peeta. Gale didn’t seem this cold-hearted in any of the previous books. And Katniss just seems too lost. I know it was war, but too many of my favorites die. Many things I thought and hoped would be included in the book were written of only briefly because so much was written about district 13. I wanted more closure between Gale, Katniss, and Peeta, and to know more of rebuilding life after the fall of the capitol. I loved the last four pages. Yes, the last four pages were the best. The rest was just mediocre writing with a few clever twists mingled in. But now I can get on with my life!