All posts by marlenedotterer

Science Fiction and Fantasy writer

A Progressive Cooking Post, Part II

Thank you for your patience. We’re back to the bread. Here’s the first rising:

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It’s actually nearly as high as the rim. It just doesn’t look like it in the picture. I formed the dough into rolls and now they are set to rising again. The dough was maybe firmer than it should have been, meaning that I added too much flour. We’ll just have to wait for the final results.

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Ah, but we have a bonus! I had a bit of dough leftover after filling the pans with rolls. So… remember those cinnamon rolls I mentioned, that I used to make with this dough? Yeah, I couldn’t resist.

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Can’t wait! Back in the day, if I was going to make cinnamon rolls, I would make the dough with orange juice instead of milk. Oh my, those were good!

Meanwhile, in chili land, the beans are through soaking and have been transferred to a cooking pot with fresh water. They are happily bubbling on the stove. It’s about 1:00 now. I’ll start working on the chili around 3:00.

The first step in preparing a dish like chili (or anything, really) is prep. For this chili, that involved dicing a very large yellow onion, two large carrots, two bell peppers, a jalapeno, and 4 cloves of garlic. I also diced the sweet potato, but that doesn’t go in until later. I measured all the spices into a small bowl. The vegetables ( except for the potato) are sauteing now. After 8 minutes, I’ll add the spices and let it all cook for a couple of minutes. Then it’s time for vegetable broth (from my freezer), tomatoes (I’ll use my own canned tomatoes), and the sweet potato.

That simmers for a bit, then I add the beans and let it simmer till the potato is done. All that’s left is parsley, vinegar and seasoning. I’ll show you the finished product below.

The bread: I think I did mention that I don’t have much luck with bread. I gave the formed rolls two hours but they didn’t rise very much. They are baking now and I don’t think it’s going to work. They didn’t grow at all. So the yeast worked great for the first rising and nada for the second.

Bleh. Well, they grew a little bit, but I’m not real hopeful. Smells good though.

….. passage of time…

Look!

rolls

The rolls are soft and yummy! It actually worked! I’ll go ahead and serve them with the chili, in lieu of cornbread. I think there’s enough in the rest of the batch for Thanksgiving. Maybe I’ll make a half batch on Wednesday to add to it. If I remember right, leftover rolls work great for turkey sandwiches.

I know you’re on the edge of your seats waiting to see how the chili turned out. Wait no longer:

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Very pretty, a bit spicy (I like that!), and tastes great. Dinner is served!

 

 

 

 

 

A Progressive Cooking Post

I thought I’d try something new today. I have a couple of things I need to cook. Both are new recipes, so I thought I’d chronicle my adventure as it happens.

I’ll be making bread, something I don’t have a lot of luck with. In the distant past, I used to make these great dinner rolls from a rich yeast dough. This kind of dough means eggs and butter are part of it. Also a sweetener. I had a recipe back then but I haven’t been able to find it for many years. So I’m using a recipe that I found online.

You’re right, this doesn’t fall into my vegan diet. These rolls were very popular with my kids when they were little (it also makes awesome cinnamon rolls), and my daughter asked me to bring the dinner rolls to Thanksgiving. I figure I need to practice first, plus her guest list includes about 30 people, so we’ll need plenty of rolls.

The second item I’m cooking today is a vegan chili. The recipe is from Straight from the Earth: A Hundred Irresistible Vegan Recipes for Everyone by Myra Goodman and Marea Goodman, of Earthbound Farm. That won’t be such a big challenge but it will be fun to post about it.

So I’ll get started, right after I’ve done the breakfast dishes. Note to beginning cooks: always start with a clean kitchen – you’ll enjoy the cooking experience much more!

Rich Yeast Dough

I’m using a recipe from Cooks. com. It sounds vaguely like the old recipe I used to have. Close enough, I guess.

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Here’s my setup. Exciting that I get to use my fancy-schamcy Kitchen-Aid mixer. The first step is to measure 2 cups of flour and 1.5 packages of active dry yeast in the bowl. I’m using whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour, and I buy yeast in bulk, so don’t have any packages. Google tells me there are 2.25 teaspoons of yeast in one package. Do the math…

The next step is to heat the milk, butter, sugar, and salt to about 115 degrees. Sadly, the effing thermometer I bought a few months ago is refusing to turn on. Not even a new battery helped. So I’ll have to do the finger estimate, keeping in mind that my hands are cold.

wpid-20141124_093022.jpg Here we go.

Now I add wet ingredients to dry, along with eggs, and mix on high for 3 minutes. While that’s happening, I can wash up the few dishes I’ve  used so far. Then I add the rest of the flour and mix.

Aaaand something is strange. The dough is still liquid. I triple-checked the ingredients and I used the right amount of everything. What a pain. So I’ve added more flour. LOTS more flour. As in 3 cups. I’m sure this is going to screw with the yeast/flour ratio and turn this into Epic Fail. Note to self (and all of you): never use this recipe again. Here’s a different one that uses 3 cups of flour to 2/3 cup milk. THAT makes more sense!

So here’s the dough, set aside to rise. I worried about this step last night when I was supposed to be sleeping. Our house is always cold this time of year. Where could I put the bread to rise? My oven’s lowest temp is 170. Too hot. Maybe on the floor by a heater vent?
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In the end, I decided to keep in on the stove. I’ll be cooking the chili after all.

Speaking of chili, it’s time to get started! The recipe is called Four Bean and Sweet Potato Chili with Skillet Cornbread.  It calls for 1.5 cups each of black, kidney, and pinto beans, and black-eyed peas. I don’t have black-eyed peas, so maybe I’ll add white beans to the mix. Either way, I don’t have enough cooked beans available, so my first step will be to do that. I’m going to just mix the beans together and cook them in one pot. Now, you’re supposed to soak beans overnight before cooking, but I forgot. No worries, though. I’ll just use my secret quick-soak method!

You’ve probably figured out that I’m a pantser when it comes to cooking. Cooking is both science and art. Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two, so I can mess with recipes with some success. Doesn’t always work, but mostly it does.

By the way – the dough is rising and it looks lovely! Whew – dodged that bullet!

To quick-soak beans, I rinse them in a colander, then put them in a large bowl and add boiling water. Cover them generously with water because they’ll expand as they soak. Let them sit for an hour. Then drain and cook just as if they’d been soaking all night.

Note: don’t waste the soaking water. Pour it in your compost or over plants. Even if you don’t live in a drought-prone area, always think of the planet when you cook!

Since we now have a longish break, I’ll go ahead and publish what I’ve done so far. In another 30 minutes or so, it will be time to form the dough into balls and let them rise again before baking. The beans will need to cook for a couple of hours or more after they soak. I’ll take pictures of the bread as I work with it and I’ll start the second post when I start prepping for the chili. Come back and check on me later!

 

 

 

 

 

Embarrassing Moments, Goals, and Other Things

This is one of those posts where I start writing with no idea of what I will say. There are options. Do I talk about what I did yesterday? Well, that sounds exciting, doesn’t it? I had breakfast, did some yoga and meditation, read the news and played games on my computer. Went to post office to check the writing club’s PO box. Watched the rain come down (yay, we have rain!). Fixed a nice dinner (Guinness Roast Beef with vegetables over whole-grain noodles – it wasn’t a vegan night), ate too much food, and watched some TV. I did not, we will all notice, write a blog post.

Do I write about my plans for today? I’ll spare you.

See, this is why I don’t blog more. Life seems to be either an intense, hectic whirlwind (like the last several weeks have been), or it’s… well, see above. We all have days of utter boredom, don’t we? And frankly, I could use the down time. I’m honestly still recovering from our time spent caring for my husband’s father. I’m am very lucky that I’m able to have the time to decompress. Most people have to immediately go back to work.

I have done some useful things since coming home. It took three days to catch up on bookkeeping and filing. Two days to clean up the yard, which really needs more time, but – rain. I had health issues to address.

Hey, I haven’t told you about that, have I? How careless of me. It’s sort of a good story. Embarrassing as heck, though.

The day after my father-in-law died, I had one of those is it a heart attack? gas episodes. Yeah, it was really gas, but that was some pain. Crying on the floor, unable to move, ambulance ride to the ER kind of pain, hurting all over my body, high BP, things like that. Since women my age often have these symptoms during a heart attack, it’s really a good thing to get checked out. I hated the idea of going to the ER, but Himself was frantic.

They did all kinds of tests to rule out heart attack and then to find the gut problem. In the end, we brought it down to a perfect storm of stress (weeks of it, along with having a bad cold), too much processed food eaten on the run, four days of intense Ibuprofen use (due to a hurt back), too much food that included beans, too much caffeine (two large glasses of iced tea), and laying down immediately after eating.

So the pain eventually went away, two EKG’s proved my heart was fine, and x-ray and ultrasound showed no organ damage. But the blood tests – two of them… ah, that’s where things got worrisome. As in abnormally high liver enzymes.

Damn. My liver is going wonky.

I had another blood test when I got home, which showed lower, but still extremely high, enzymes. My doctor doesn’t appear to be very worried – just said to avoid alcohol and pain meds, and have another test in three months.

Okay.

You may have read that last line and not noticed, but I have to avoid alcoholI LOVE alcohol. I love the things you can do with alcohol in food and beverages. I have a glass of wine with dinner four times a week. Sometimes I swap out a wine for a margarita or a martini. The holidays are approaching and Himself has an awesome eggnog recipe, filled with rum and bourbon. I like the occasional glass of brandy or scotch. Beer with a hamburger (or a veggie burger).

Sigh. So I’m “avoiding” all of it. During the holidays. Because folks, I’m not fooling around where my liver is involved. The high enzymes can probably be traced to the same perfect storm that caused the gastritis. Alcohol probably wasn’t involved because I’d hardly had anything to drink for a few weeks. There wasn’t time. I did have a few glasses of wine post-viewing and post-funeral. We all did. That’s actually the last alcohol I’ve had.

I’ve also made a couple of decisions I hope I can keep.

  • I’m going to be more serious about the vegan diet. I couldn’t follow it very well in Oceanside because I didn’t have a lot of control over meals. I still don’t quite buy the idea that humans should never eat animal products, but I will try to limit it to 1 – 3 times a month.
  • I’m going lose more weight. Lots more. You may not remember that Himself and I started a partial fasting diet about a year ago by limiting food intake to about 600 calories three days a week. I lost 25 pounds doing that, but I’ve been stuck at about 125 pounds for several months now. I still try to follow the diet, but Himself doesn’t need to lose any more weight and he stopped fasting. On my own, I have very little willpower, so it’s been an epic fail lately. I need to get over this. I truly believe that my excess weight, which is mostly in my gut, makes ALL my physical ailments worse. Losing my gut (as much as genetics will allow) can only help.

I really have trouble sticking to this. I do understand that a temporary diet is not a successful way to keep weight off. I understand that I have to permanently reduce calories and permanently exercise (or at least move) more. I don’t expect to lose weight and then think I can start eating to my heart’s content again. I know I can’t. So I need to grow my willpower in order to both lose and maintain my weight. I’m okay, pretty much, on maintaining where I am, I just can’t seem to eat less. 

I know that 125 doesn’t seem like much. You’re all probably guffawing at me. But some of us are overweight at 125 pounds. I’m a little person. It’s like the average woman weighting 180 pounds. If I lose this weight, and stick to the mostly plant-based diet, I’m hoping that arthritis, restless legs, and peripheral neuropathy will all improve enough that I can stop or cut back on medication. That can only help my liver.

Maybe then I can have a glass of wine once in a while.

We all gotta have goals.

Why I Took My Kids’ Toys Away | What to Do with Too Many Toys

Why I Took My Kids’ Toys Away | What to Do with Too Many Toys.

Good advice. It’s really hard for me to buy my grandchildren birthday or Christmas presents because they all have SO MUCH stuff already. I’m always looking for other types of presents for them, although I don’t have much luck with it.

Life is a Journey

I’m feeling a little philosophical today, but I have good reasons. The last several weeks have been filled with intense, difficult, and heartfelt steps along life’s journey. My own journey has been affected, of course, but the main path of these weeks led through the life of my husband’s father as he flowed inexorably toward the last of the steps his journey required.

Hal has been ailing since July, when what was supposed to be a quick “procedure” proved too much for his 91-year-old body and he ended up fighting for his life. He pulled through, but never quite recovered. So, five weeks ago, when it seemed that his condition was deteriorating, we closed up shop and headed south, to lend him what help we could. We spent every day of two weeks in the nursing home with him, encouraging him and conversing with doctors, physical therapists, and caregivers. We got medication adjusted, helped him eat, and cheered his walks down the hall, whether he accomplished two feet or 50. When his tired body weakened further in spite of our efforts, we moved him to the hospital for more aggressive treatment.

After nearly two weeks, we all (Hal, too) realized that life would never be more than constant treatments, constant exhaustion, and constant pain. Hal elected to go home and we called hospice.

I can’t say enough good things about hospice care and the people who provide it.  They took are of everything, including Hal, equipment, staffing, medication, comfort, and even us. Hal came home on a Friday and we called hospice every day and night to answer questions, send a nurse to evaluate things, demonstrate techniques, and reassure us that we were doing the right things.

Since home hospice does not provide round-the-clock care,  we hired an agency to send health aides for two shifts each day. After the first night, we knew we needed that third shift covered as well. We were just getting to the point, after three days, where we thought we could handle one of the day shifts on our own, but never got the chance to implement it.

In retrospect, we should have realized that Hal was so near his ending. I remember I thought so during those last days in the hospital, but I got fooled by his joy at being home – his eyes were bright, he talked more, and even wanted to get in a wheelchair so he could go see the rest of the house and go outside on his patio. Sadly, he didn’t have the strength for that, though we promised we’d take him around if he got strong enough. Even so, he was able to visit with us and his daughter and her family. He was especially happy when his away-at-college-grandson came home to spend the weekend with him.

This surge of energy did not last more than a day. By Sunday he had slipped into unconsciousness. On Monday, we held his hands as he took his last few breaths. I hope our presence brought him comfort.  I know I’ve never felt more humbled or privileged than I did while standing there.

I’ve posted here before about my ideas on death and dying. Everything I experienced the last weeks has taught me so much and solidified my views. I’ll talk more about that in future posts. For now, I want to say one more good-bye to a wonderful human being and great father-in-law.

RIP, Hal.

Hal 2013
Harold A. Dotterer 5/9/1923 – 11/3/2014

 

 

Pregnant, and No Civil Rights – NYTimes.com

Pregnant, and No Civil Rights – NYTimes.com.

We’ve managed to get equal civil rights for African-Americans and for women, and we’re getting closer for LGBT folks.  None of these has been perfect in implementation, but we keep working at it.

Now, a sub-class of women – pregnant women – must begin demanding their civil rights as American citizens. They already HAVE those rights – but recent laws are stripping them away.

This is real.

And it has to stop.