Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bread and Sheila

I have two loaves of whole wheat bread in the oven. It's 100% whole wheat, but the dough seems much lighter than when I've made it before. I'm looking forward to the end result. Still some cleanup to do, but I'm not in a hurry.

While the dough was rising in the pans, I took Sheila for a walk down to the river. Since the little right of way was snow covered, we walked up the street to the alley, turned right, and headed down to the next street. On the way, we stopped, hearing furious barking. A little dog that looked for all the world like a black and white brindled fox, except for the tail, which was one of those stubby "stick" ones--charged toward us. Sheila stood her ground, and she and the dog touched noses. Sheila sniffed at the little dog's butt, and the dog tried to reciprocate, but s/he was too short to reach her as they moved around in a circle. The dog did a funny leap into the air, looked at Sheila, looked at me, seemed to nod briskly, turned around and trotted away.

Sheila eagerly tracked two other dogs we saw from a distance, sometimes following their tracks to walk in deeper snow. We caught up with them in the parking lot--Max and Chelsie--and Sheila was more subservient. She climbed snowbanks and had a generally good time as we made our way back. The river was rough today, with waves washing up on the boat ramp. It made me think of Lake Ontario on windy days at the lake house. I miss it.

When we got home, Ollie looked up from the armchair where he has been curled most of the day, yawned, stretched, and went back to sleep. He has about 20 minutes before Teen One and Teen Two arrive home and shatter the peace.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Clothes dryers, oranges, and oatmeal

I love oranges. I say this only because I just found a bagful that I bought, and I was afraid they'd gone over. I tried one, and it was lovely, if messy. I think oranges could be a metaphor for life: sometimes sweet and juicy, sometimes dry and bitter, often messy. Enough of that.

I started making oatmeal in the morning this week. On Sunday, we had the Great St. Valentine's Day Oatmeal Massacree and Debacle, when I tried cooking it entirely in milk, and the milk scorched almost immediately. It also left a nasty layer of scorched milk baked to the bottom of the saucepan. I worked on that sucker on and off all day and got most of it off. My Sweet Babboo got the last bit. My hero!

I mentioned it to someone that day in Meeting, and he told me that he cooks it with less than the 2:1 water to oatmeal ratio, then makes up the difference with milk. I tried that, and it does makes a very creamy pot of oatmeal. I use 3 cups of water and add 1 cup of milk. What occurred to me in the process was that it took a lot less time than I thought it would. In fact, I would even venture to say that it doesn't take much longer than making the instant stuff from the packets.

This is becoming true of a lot of the things I haven't done because it would take "too long."  I made homemade pizza on Sunday afternoon, and the crust part really didn't take that long--and kneading it was particularly satisfying--so much so that I am going to start baking bread again.

Today's main project, however, will be laundry. Our dryer gave up the ghost last weekend, and a visit from Bob the repairman revealed that there would be no resurrection. We bought it used, and apparently it was pretty old then. It would cost too much to repair, so we're in the market for a new dryer.

My Sweet Babboo thinks it would be very simple to haul the laundry through two feet of snow to the clothesline at the back of the yard. Granted, there are paths trampled for Sheila, but they are circuitous, and then there's the issue of the clothes freezing on the line and the amount of laundry in proportion to the amount of space on the clothesline/number of clothespins...well. You know.

Sweet Babboo counters that people managed it for ages without clothes dryers. Good for them. It's also easier for one to say that when one is not the person who does the laundry on a regular basis. I will be washing batches of clothes, bagging them, and taking them to the laundromat on Market Street to use the dryers there.

Actually, I could start some bread, come to think of it....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Black Beans with Moroccan Seasoning

I made this up on Sunday. I soaked two cups of black beans the night before and cooked them Sunday morning. I still have some of the beans left over. I'm going to experiment with turning them into some kind of little patty, like sliders.

Notes on the recipe: I use minced garlic that I buy in honking big jars. I know it's not as good as mincing the stuff myself, but I really think that it is possible to carry the "chop wood, carry water" thing too far. We love our garlic, and I would be spending a lot of time mincing it otherwise. The point is that I don't know how much garlic I used, which is why I say "to taste."

The other note: I found the directions for the seasoning mix on the Internet. It seems like a lot of ingredients, but it's lovely.

Black Beans with Moroccan Seasoning
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
Minced garlic to taste
1 red bell pepper, diced
3-4 cups cooked black beans
3-4 Tbsp Moroccan seasoning mix (see below)
1 can of diced tomatoes
Sea salt


Moroccan seasoning mix
5 tsp ground nutmeg
5 tsp ground cumin
5 tsp ground coriander
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon


Mix together thoroughly and keep in an airtight container. 

  1. Heat oil in a skillet.
  2. Sauté onions until translucent
  3. Add garlic and cook, stirring to keep garlic from sticking and burning.
  4. Add diced red bell pepper. Stir fry until tender crisp.
  5. Add black beans and 2 Tbsp of the Moroccan seasoning mix. Stir and heat beans.
  6. Stir in diced tomatoes. Add 1-2 more  Tbsp of Moroccan seasoning mix and a pinch of sea salt. Continue cooking until heated through. Adjust seasonings.

I served this with quinoa cooked in vegetable broth. I love quinoa; it's unexpectedly crunchy and tasty. You could serve this with (whole wheat) couscous or brown rice. I think the accompanying starch should be on the bold and sturdy side to complement the dish.

In the beginning

I have complained for a long time about how I can't seem to get "it" together without thinking much about what "it" is. Well, "it" is a combination of things, mostly things I wish I were doing or changing but cowering under the overwhelmingness of "it all."

In other words, I was like one of the Knights Who Formerly Said Ni! in that the word "it" was causing me to shrivel into a gibbering ninny, a whining gibbering ninny. That's so not productive. So, in a lucid moment, I reminded myself that I once said I could do anything for ten minutes if I had to, and I decided to apply that to all that stuff I wanted to do. You know. "It."

So, I set my brain in motion and started doing things for at least ten minutes at a time, and I'm actually getting a handle on "it" in so many ways, and I'm going to use this blog to record and reflect on it. Um, "it."

Well. You know.