Pain de Pandemic

How are you all?

I am working from home (miracle of miracles) part of the time. When going into the agency I am wearing a mask. Said mask is to last 5 shifts. I made a cloth mask to wear over it although contact with people is minimal, making being in the office a very grim place to be. But I am working and am not furloughed and am counting my blessings.

On weekends I bake. This past weekend I made a cake and Hubby and I ate it in two days. Not a good thing. Lunchtime on tele-working days has resulted in an apple pie and a chocolate snack cake over the past two weeks. Oh, and cookie dough. The problem with cookie dough is that I freeze rolls of it and then can slice and bake a dozen cookies each day, which I did, and we ate! Weekends have bread baking sessions. So when Hubby went out to the grocery store he bought plenty of flour.

Looking through my Fleischmann’s yeast cook-booklet I came across Verona Loaf.  At the time of this bake I had been running low on flour so wanted a recipe that did not call for 7-8 cups. Verona Loaf calls for half that. Although it says “loaf” it is made in rounds or boules. This recipe makes two. And is more than just flour, salt, water, and yeast.

  • 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3  cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (I use instant yeast so 2 teaspoons)
  • ¼ cup softened butter
  • ¾ cup very warm tap water (120-130 degrees F)
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup cold butter

In large bowl thoroughly mix 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, lemon peel, and yeast. Then add softened butter. Gradually add hot water to dry ingredients and mix at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add eggs, vanilla and ½ cup flour and beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in enough flour to make soft dough. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk about 45 minutes.

I am using my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. I use the dough hook throughout. I use speed 2 for medium although maybe that should be 4 which I use for high speed because 6 just seems too fast.

After the first rising comes the interesting part. This will now be laminated similar to puff pastry. First turn dough on floured board and roll dough to ½ inch thickness. Cut 2 tablespoons of cold butter into small pieces and place on center 1/3 of dough. Fold 1/3 of dough over butter. Now place the remaining 2 tablespoons of cold butter, also cut into small pieces, on top of the folded third. Bring remaining third of dough over to cover the butter. Now roll the dough into an 18 inch strip, fold in thirds, and wrap loosely in wax paper (or parchment) and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Repeat rolling procedure and folding into thirds and refrigeration. Repeat twice. Next, on floured surface divide dough in half. Lightly knead each half and shape into a ball. Place in 2 greased 8-inch round pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 35 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. I have found that my oven requires the maximum bake time plus 5 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. (Sprinkle with sugar while warm. I’m not certain I did this last bit.)

This was a very tasty bread.

And more pains de pandemic:

Raisin white bread made with potato water!
Everyday mixed grain bread

Comfort Baking: Olive Oil Cake

My son and daughter-in-law visited so I baked a cake. I was flipping through magazines and so I baked a cake. I was looking through my news-feed and had to bake a cake. I sense a pattern here. I’m thinking I might be baking a cake in the near future as well.

I finally got around to making this cake. I was looking for the magazine that had created a recipe for veggie sauce with the mouth feel of ground meat. I had attached a note to the front of the magazine with the names and page numbers of recipes I wanted to try and this one was there. This turned out well, having a grown-up taste, not too sweet and quite moist. It is possible that I under-baked it by 5 minutes but that did not affect our enjoyment of the cake. The problem with this cake is that it was so easy to slice off a sliver each time one walked by it.

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon zest (I used orange zest; the second time I used lime zest. Stick to lemon or orange)
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk.)

Oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9 inch spring-form pan. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together. In a separate bowl whip eggs on medium speed (stand mixer with whisk attachment) until foamy about one minute. Add sugar and zest increasing speed to high and beating for about 3 minutes. Reduce speed back to medium and slowly pour in oil, mix only one minute. Add ½ the flour mixture about one minute. Add milk and mix for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix for one minute. Of course, you are scraping down the sides of the bowl during the addition of the flour and milk. Pour the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle on the remaining sugar. Bake 45-50 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing. Supposedly let this cool completely before slicing. Hah!

And here’s another cake: Guinness Chocolate Cake in honor of St. Patrick’s Day but really because it was a Friday and I got home from work. For this one I made a Bailey’s Buttercream and not a cream cheese frosting.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1875-chocolate-guinness-cake

Thoughts:

Weight loss is out the window. With all this Coronavirus Pandemic, hunkering down, figuring out how to work from home, how worried should I be, binge-watching Netflix for escapism, I eat what I want. I apparently bake and eat cakes too! See above. We re-watched the whole Lord of the Rings Special Edition DVD set. There’s a situation that puts this in perspective. I would have liked to put one of those images and quotes here but am not sure how or if things are copyrighted.

It’s all about priorities and enjoying life. I like to learn about food. I like to do new things with vegetables to eat more of them. I like to bake and cook. I am reasonably healthy and not too overweight. I do not want to add more anxiety in this day and time with regard to the food I eat.

Maybe I’ll get back on the weight loss train sometime later this year. One day at a time.

Scones for Hubby

Food: More Scones

One weekend I seemed to spend all my time in the kitchen. I decided to bake as well as cook. Hubby likes scones and I remembered a recipe that I had made once. It took me a bit of time to locate it in my various recipe notebooks but I did.

Basically scones appear to be made up of 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, salt, 1/3 cup butter-like substance and 1 cup cream, and then flavor ingredients if using. The recipe I made is one touting itself as “healthier” with supposedly lower calories, lower fat content, and the like. This healthier tagline does not mean a hill of beans when Hubby eats half the pan in one sitting! And Hubby likes cranberry as the flavor ingredient but failed to remind me we have oodles of frozen whole cranberries in our possession.

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup butter (the healthier original called for trans-fat-free buttery spread)
  • 1 cup + 2 Tab. Yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (the original called for ½ cup raspberries)
  • ¼ cup candied ginger bits (the original called for mini chocolate chips)

Mix flours, baking powder, and baking soda in large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly. Mix in the cranberries and ginger bits. Mix yogurt and honey and then mix with the flour mixture. This will be very soft dough. Pat out onto a floured surface and knead 2 to 3 times. Roll into a circle or square to about ½ inch thickness. Or pat with your floured hands. Cut into shapes or a circle to cut into wedges. I have a scone pan so I made a square and then cut into four squares and then four triangles per square. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12-15 minutes. You can sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top before baking but I did not.

These are quite tasty. They are best the day made but not too bad the next day either.

Thoughts: Stay Home and Stay Safe!

I am working hard at following my professional training on staying calm, maintaining hope, finding meaning, and practicing good public hygiene during this time of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Reading the news constantly has not been a good plan for my mental health. The public agency that I work for has deemed me essential. The folk we work with are in need of knowing that there are people to talk to who care who have not just shut the doors. The agency worked very hard and quickly to manage a part-time work from home which we have begun. Most of our face-to-face is for crisis and emergency management.  Most of the work now is phone contact for health promotion, supportive counseling, prompting self-care, and making sure people have access to basic needs such as medicine, food, and shelter as well as connecting with those living alone who have invisible struggles.

For myself personally I found the virtual church service this morning was a blessing. I did not expect it to be but lately I find I am often surprised by joy spiritually.

Hubby and my walks are around our neighborhood. People are walking their dogs or just themselves. We all wave and maintain social distancing standards. But the fresh air is good, and getting up off the couch, and a change of venue from the four walls!

Take care of yourselves. Follow social distance guidelines. Do not hoard supplies. Find comfort in faith, family, and friends. We are all in this together and will weather the storm. One day at a time and any other ways we manage our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to get through.

And don’t forget to wash those hands!

two pounds in two months!

Part A: dessert

So I made brownies. I am not always making brownies but they are easy to make and almost always good. I like fudgy brownies. I was thinking of making brownies all week but had run out of eggs. And we were not going to shop until the weekend. I waited. Then after buying 5 dozen eggs at the Walmart (the regular eggs were all packaged in Styrofoam which I do not like to buy) I made brownies. I decided to try Alton Brown’s cocoa brownies which claim to be fudgy and “ooiey”. https://altonbrown.com/alton-brown-brownie-recipe/ and/or https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/cocoa-brownies-recipe-2085484

I do not have a kitchen scale. I’m not that precise a baker. So I guess-timated the amounts of ingredients as he gives them in weights. These turned out very gooey. I did use the thermometer because I could not tell if they were actually done. We ate these while warm which meant they could not actually be picked up. They fell apart. Apparently that was not a problem in that we ate most of them! The next day they could be picked up and they were still very fudgy and very rich. Beating the eggs for a few minutes really does make a difference in producing the shiny crust on top. If I make these again I will bake them at 350 degrees F and not the 300 degrees in his directions. Here’s what I did.

  • 4 large eggs.
  • Scant 1 cup granulated sugar.
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar.
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour.
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (melted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Beat eggs for 2-3 minutes. Sift dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add the sugar mixture and mix, then the melted butter and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. The pan is 9 inch square, sprayed and lined with parchment so the parchment overhangs two sides by 2 inches. This will be used to lift the brownies from the pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes. Mine took 55 minutes and I had to use the thermometer to be sure they were done. Alton Brown says this should register at 195. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes and then lift out. Cut into 9 squares. Actually you could cut into smaller squares as these are very rich. Even letting them cool for that bit of time, lifting them out was difficult because they were so soft.

ooey-gooey brownies

Part B: two months of weight loss

Hah! Brownies are not good for weight loss. Eating Oreo cookies is not good either. And not counting calories appears to be my downfall. For the past two weeks I stopped counting calories. Counting calories makes me accountable for

  1. How many Oreos I eat,
  2. How many glasses of wine I pour myself,
  3. Portion controlling potato chips, crackers and cheese, and other late night-TV watching snacks,
  4. Not having seconds at meals.

So I have actually gained back the 2 pounds lost in January. I have a net loss of HALF a POUND! The good news is that I have lost 2.5 pounds since last summer and at times will weigh at a 5 pound loss since then. The inconsistency is frustrating.

So now I ask myself what to do. I want to bake and I want to enjoy my food. Yes, I should not be eating Oreos or Potato Chips, but I want to make a cake once in a while. I want to make new and interesting vegetable dishes.

Life is too short to not eat dessert!

Eat Your Vegetables!

In my endeavor to eat healthy and lose weight I am trying to put more vegetables in our meals. I find it difficult to eat the daily recommendations of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. That is unless I eat a salad which is 2-3 in one. In winter I find it harder to find salads appealing. I don’t hold to the idea of restricting vegetables in my quest. I will eat peas, potatoes, and carrots and not consider them too starchy, even though they might be. Beans are a vegetable and I am talking the canned variety of kidney, pinto, garbanzo, and the like. Even corn.

To this end I have been renting books from the library searching for interesting and easy ways to add fresh and frozen vegetables to our meals. We usually add frozen mixed vegetable to noodles, leftovers, chili, and casseroles. We dry roast them in a skillet with onion and seasoning too. But now I am looking for variety.

Jacques Pepin and Julia Child are two of my favorite chefs for reading about them and their recipes. My neighbor gave me her extra produce from one of those produce delivery services that touts themselves as reducing food waste. I hope it is true. There were two misshapen but perfectly good butternut squash. And there was a recipe for Butternut Squash Sauté in More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin (page 136). So I made that. Hubby had the task of peeling and cutting the squash and almost cut his finger off doing so! The dish was tasty. I did not take a picture of it; we ate it. And then I put the leftovers in a recipe for Lentils and Sweet Potatoes using the squash as substitute for the sweet potatoes. I did not take a photo of that one either.

Here is a photo of a vegetable dish: French Style Peas

This recipe is from One Pot Vegetarian by Sabrina Faude-Role. I modified the recipe a bit using baby broccoli instead of spring onions and used homemade vegetable broth instead of a vegetable stock cube. And it was tasty! Who knew one could cook lettuce!

  • Frozen peas, I had half a bag so about 1 ½ cups
  • One bunch baby broccoli, stems and all, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 8 ounces vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • A grind or two of pepper
  • 6 lettuce leaves

Put everything in a sauce pot, bring to boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Voila!

Now I have many many cookbooks and many have vegetable recipes. The glory of renting books from the library is trying them out to determine if any are worth getting for one’s own kitchen library. That one pot book is for me. It is not Vegan but all vegetables; and grains and pasta and a few more things like plant based proteins. There are even some desserts.

Who is Sally Lunn?

Food:

It was a weekend and I wanted to bake. Bread should be better than cake when counting calories, don’t you think? I looked through several cookbooks and finally settled on one from my handy-dandy Fleischmann’s Yeast Booklet from long ago. I have wanted to bake this particular bread for a long time but have never done so. It looks like a cake and is in the “no-knead” chapter. One of my other cookbooks explained that the origin is probably French and is popular in the South here in America. The Smithsonian magazine site relates that she may be a French pastry chef who sought refuge in England or a different woman, or even from Sun and Moon as descriptive of appearance. Others say it was one of George Washington’s favorites. Read all about it here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/colonial-recipes-sally-lunn-cake-82438919/

Whatever its origin it sounds of interest to me and I set out to bake. No knead breads are batter breads. This recipe made one large loaf baked in a tube pan, the kind used for Angel Food Cake.

  • ½ cup warm water (105-115 degrees F); I got to use my new instant read thermometer which was not very “instant”; hmmm?
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk (I used unsweetened oat milk)
  • ½ cup softened butter; okay, I nuked it for 20-30 seconds ( this apparently is a no-no but works for me in a pinch)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs, well-beaten at room temperature; I put the eggs in a bowl of warmish water to take the chill off
  • 5 ½ to 6 cups all-purpose flour

Put the warm water in the big bowl of the stand mixer (KitchenAid fitted with the dough hook) and sprinkle the yeast and stir to dissolve. Add milk, butter, sugar, salt and eggs and beat until well blended about one minute. Stir in enough flour to make soft dough. Cover, let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled, about one hour. So my kitchen is not a warm place. Hubby suggested I bring the bowl into the living room near the fireplace but I was afraid it would rise too fast. So I went off to the library and let it rise almost 1 ½ hours.

Grease well the tube pan. This needs to be a 10-inch pan and not a smaller decorative one. Stir the batter down, it basically needed to be gently pounded by the wooden spoon for this. My batter was all in one piece so I “poured” it into the tube pan and stretched it around to fit the circle. Cover and let rise until doubled, about one hour. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Very yummy!

Thoughts: Also about food

I am hungry! I continue to count calories but find that I go over the weight loss amount regularly now. And it is not from the empty calories from drink. I’m not even eating a lot of sweets. How can I enjoy food and cooking this way? I don’t want to not pay attention to what I eat because I tend to put on weight that way. So far, I am not gaining but not losing either. Here is a typical work day’s food intake:

  • coffee, black
  • egg and cheese on English Muffin
  • leftover chili or vegetable curry, one cup
  • orange
  • 17 whole almonds
  • homemade sausage, peppers, and onions, one cup, if that
  • hamburger bun for sandwiching the sausage and peppers
  • handful of potato chips
  • dates for a sweet treat after dinner
  • glass of red wine at bar for Trivia night

Okay, so the potato chips were not the best choice. The dates add up as well but they are very nutritious. But this is not a lot of food. And this put me over the “limit” by at least 300 calories! Some mornings Hubby fixes oatmeal for me and sometimes I have yogurt for lunch. But I am still hungry.

One night we had grilled steak (4-6 ounces), sauteed squash, and Caesar salad with red wine and sat around the table having a nice conversation. The calorie count was over 50% of the allotted amount. And we only added a piece of fruit for dessert.

How can I keep this up? Yet I don’t want to give up. We’ll see at the end of the month what the scale says. Stay tuned.

Super Bowl “junk food” and Weight Loss

Part A: food

So I wandered around the library again and checked out 6 books; four of them were on food and cooking. So I made chili. I made this recipe because it has cocoa as an ingredient and I thought that was interesting. I read the recipe, jumped up from the sofa and went into the kitchen to cook. I had all the ingredients in the pantry. I rarely make chili the same way twice. I vary up the beans, or meat, and who ever heard of measuring spices!

  • Meat, one pound ground beef, browned in a skillet
  • One onion, chopped, sauté in large skillet with some oil
  • Add 3 cloves garlic, minced, along with the following
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and stir for about 30 seconds
  • Now add 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes with the juice
  • 2 cups pinto beans, drained
  • 2 ½ cups broth
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

Cover the pot, simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  This is adapted from the book Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning (2017).

This freezes well and we also served this for our Super Bowl Junk Food Meal as a dip for tortilla chips. There it is in the bowl in the middle. We also made two kind of wings, a yogurt dip and veggie sticks.

Part B: thoughts on Weight Loss Journey Month One

I made a lot of changes to my routine in January. So the 2 pounds lost cannot be attributed to just one factor. I’m hoping month two will keep the momentum going. At times I had lost 2 ½ pounds but one cannot trust the ½ pound. It was not consistent.

Two pounds in a month’s time seems like paltry results to me. It is not enough to be a natural motivator. If it had been five…maybe. February adds the addition of more mental effort to keep going. I must remind myself it is not just weight loss but health I seek. Here are the things added/deleted last month that are all factors in the two pound loss:

  • Circuit training twice a week: 20-30 minutes
  • One vegetarian/vegan main dish for dinner each week
  • 45-60 minute hikes each weekend outdoors with Hubby
  • Counting calories daily
  • Taking an Apple Cider Vinegar capsule and a Turmeric capsule daily
  • Weighing self-several times per week, if not daily
  • Dry January eliminating all alcohol

Going forward into February what might change? Depending on the weather hikes may not always be feasible. I will add back a drink or two occasionally. I’m not ready to give up yet, but would like not to feel so restricted in what I plan for meals and snacks. Baking seems entirely out of the question. There is a birthday in February. though; I might bake a cake!

May blessings to all of you.