Just a quick (at least that's the plan) post about the Casatiello bread I made yesterday for the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. It was a hectic day capped off by my daughter's dance recital. Thanks to her independence and ability to get completely ready all by herself, I still managed to get in quite a bit of cooking and baking. I pulled the casatiello out of the oven about 15 minutes before it was time to go. About 4 hours later (it was a very long dance recital), I was finally able to sample it. I was quite skeptical, since I had made so many Vegan substitutes; Earth Balance Sticks for the butter, Egg Replacer for the eggs, and Rice Milk for the milk/buttermilk. I also used some caramelized onions and black olives instead of the salami and cheese (even though I would have LOVED to throw some cheese in there - Mmmm). I made it in the 8" cake pan that the recipe kind of alludes to. Surprisingly, it was very good! It was rich yet light and fluffy like the Brioche I made last week with the "real" ingredients. The biggest difference I could detect was the lack of golden color. My husband said he thought it was the best bread I'd made so far. In typical woman-fashion, I was a little insulted by that. In my mind, "real" bread is like the Pain a L'Ancienne that I've been making since I bought the book last summer. Granted I haven't perfected it, but to me, that's good bread. This brioche-y business is just a novelty - no matter how good it tastes. That's just my crazy logic. He meant well. I decided to let it roll off.
Where to start?! I have so much to blog about. It's been awhile since I've blogged. I got distracted by a sewing project. We've always used cloth napkins (one less thing to throw away), but lately we've been washing them after just one use which seems almost as wasteful. I love my kids and have dealt with every possibly bodily excretion, but I just didn't like the idea of sharing their napkins. Since all the napkins look the same, it would be impossible for everyone just to keep track of their own from meal to meal, so I decided to make each person their own napkin with a different fabric. Since it would be too much to ask some of the less observant members of the family (Dad) to keep track of whose fabric is who's, I also appliqued each person's initial on their napkin. I was determined to use up fabric I already had and not succumb to my usual temptation to buy all new stuff for a new project. Mission accomplished! A few of the napkins have a bit of patchwork on the back, since I didn't necessarily have the right sized scraps, but that just adds to the charm. I just finished them yesterday, and we have yet to actually try them out, since our dining room table is covered with piles (okay mountains) of clean laundry waiting to be put away. Here they are:
I hope to make one more set at some point to allow us to have the other set in the wash, but for now, I'm going to try to focus (back) on gardening, baking, and cooking. Oh, and we're going to be doing some rearranging of the house that will let me have a craft room. Woo hoo! I'm so excited about that, but I'm sure it will take me quite a bit of time to get everything set up. My craft "area" up in the attic is quite a mess right now.
On to other things. I'm still doing (and keeping up with) the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. I messed up last week though and made the Challah when we were supposed to make the Casatiello. I'll make that this weekend. Although I love the name and have had it stuck in my head all week - with various dramatic (and really embarrasing if anyone could hear me saying it in my head) pronunciations, I'm not all that excited about making it. I loved the brioche (this casatiello is similar with salami and cheese also thrown in), but I don't want to compromise my Vegan diet twice (I had to the first time to try the brioche in all it's buttery, eggy glory). I'm going to have to try to make the Casatiello with rice milk, Egg Replacer and Earth Balance. And of course something other than salami and cheese. I'm thinking sun dried tomatoes. I guess it will be a good experiment. Anyway, I didn't love the Challah either. I had to use quite a bit of Egg Replacer in it as well. It ended up being quite bland, but I think that may actually be how it's supposed to taste. In my pre-BBA life, I probably would have loved it, but now I'm too spoiled by the other breads I've made from the book which are so much better. The challah, at least, was very pretty, and I enjoyed doing the braid. Here it is:
Finally (for now - there's still so much more to catch up on), for the past two weeks, I've actually sat down on Friday or Saturday and planned out the meals for the entire week. I know that's probably the norm for most people, but it's a real novelty for me, and it feels like quite an accomplishment. I wanted to share what we've been having:
Saturday Breakfast, 5/30 - Assortment of Poppy Seed, Blueberry, and Plain Pancakes, Bacon for kids.
Saturday Dinner, 5/30 - Gone to a party
Sunday, 5/31 - Pizza - With homemade dough from BBA - cooked in the oven on the pizza stone. Kids had bacon leftover from Sat. breakfast on their pizza. Adults had regular onions, carmelized onions, sauce. Need to come up with some more Vegan toppings.
Monday, 6/1 - Sandwiches - Turkey for the kids and avocado and tomato for me
Tuesday, 6/2 - Adults: Orange Pan-glazed Tempeh with Bulgur Pilaf. Kids: Leftover Pancakes
Wednesday, 6/3 - Adults: Sweet Potato Pot Pies. Kids: Baked Potato Bar (with more leftover bacon, cheese, etc.)
Thursday, 6/4 - Pasta
Friday, 6/5 - Pizza - same dough - this time cooked over charcoal in the fire pit. I think the dough was too thin for this to work well.
The next week was mostly the same, since I had a lot of leftover ingredients to use up. This coming week, I'll definitely have to throw in a few new things.
Saturday Dinner, 6/6 - Maple Glazed Tempeh, Roasted Potato, Garlic, and Bell Pepper Salad, Burgers for the kids
Sunday, 6/7 - French Toast or Eggs for the kids, Homemade Hummus and Pretzels for me
Monday, 6/8 - Tacos for the kids, more hummus and pretzels for me
Tuesday, 6/9 - Adults: Sweet Potato Pot Pies. Kids: Leftover French Toast and Tacos
Wednesday, 6/10 - I went out with some friends. Dad and kids were on their own.
Thursday, 6/11 - Adults not hungry. Kids: Mac & Cheese
Friday, 6/12 - Adults: Orange Pan-glazed Tempeh with Bulgur Pilaf. Kids: PB & J
I kind of fell apart on the kids meals. I go back and forth between wanting them to eat whatever I make and just wanting them to eat - period.
I haven't completed the meal planning yet for this week, but today, I'm going to be making these awesome sounding Berry Beer Baked Beans from my favorite cooking blog, 101 cookbooks. I've had these beautiful, local, Jacob's Cattle Beans that I've been wanting to use for almost a year. They just completed their overnight soak and will go in the oven as soon as I get back from the Farmer's Market (and supermarket) with the rest of the ingredients. Gotta run - I like to get to the Farmer's Market right when it opens, and I'm already late.
I just went out into my garden to check it's progress for the day, and I'm really depressed. My broccolini that I was so excited about looks like it's being eaten. The biggest and most promising plant is falling over, and many of the others are turning yellow and have holes in their leaves. It's gotta be some kind of bugs. The same thing seems to be happening to my spinach. (A gardening friend of mine who planted hers at around the same time says hers is almost ready to eat.) And my little carrots that were starting to come up have disappeared. How can that happen?! And my basil and marigolds are getting eaten, too. I thought those were supposed to be the plants that are so disgusting to bugs and other critters that they'll even stay away from plants nearby. My tomatoes still look awful, too. I was starting to think that they were perking up, but I changed my mind after tonight's inspection. We have had a lot of rain, but I just don't know. Oh, and my two little watermelon seedlings got eaten. It probably doesn't help either that my husband and kids play baseball out there, and I'm sure the ball has landed on my plants more than once.
Patience is not my strong suit, but I think I can manage to wait for things to grow. On the other hand, if they're not going to make it, I should get started on replacements from the farmer's market soon. It's so sad to think that my little seedlings that I nurtured inside for so long and looked so healthy might not actually survive. I guess that's all part of gardening - trying different things to figure out what works, but it's not exactly quick feedback.
Trying to think more positively, my peas are doing great, and my Forellenschuss lettuce is still looking good along with the mesclun. Oh on that note, another thing that's bumming me out is that I bought two beautiful bunches of Romaine from the farmer's market this past weekend and my fridge must be too cold, but it looks pretty much inedible after a night in there. I totally should have just left it out. The pepper plants look good although I did spot a hole in one of the leaves today. I'm really going to have to figure out what's eating them. Oh and my cilantro is up after I'd almost given up hope - I guess that's a good lesson. I pinched off a little leaf to make sure that's what it was, and it's funny how even when it's so little, it still has that distinctive cilantro smell. Maybe things will be looking up by farmer's market day this weekend then I can decide if I want to replace anything. Although I have to confess that I already replaced most of the broccolini with some eggplant plants that I bought there this past weekend. I got varieties called Little Fingers and Prosperata. I discovered that I really like eggplant after trying this caponata recipe from Epicurious. (Oh, I think I mentioned that in another post already, sorry.) Although I have to admit, I've only had it that way and in Eggplant Parmesan. I wonder if you can freeze eggplant. Let me know if you have any good eggplant recipes.
The above is a photo of one of my mini Brioche loaves that I made this weekend for week 4 (?) of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. I'm so excited that I've been able to keep up so far, but I can't believe how much flour I'm going through. I haven't spent as much time as I would like following along with other people who are doing the challenge. I'll have to try to spend some time doing that this week. Anyway, for the brioche, it would have been nice to use the classic little brioche tins, but I didn't have any of those. I did have some really cute mini loaf pans that my father had given me a few Christmases ago, so I ended up using those, and they worked out perfectly. I put the egg and the 1/2 cup measuring cup in the photo, so you could get an idea of the size of the loaves. I made four altogether.
They came out beautifully. They're the prettiest golden color and taste exactly how I would expect brioche to taste. I sprinkled a bit of sugar on the tops after I brushed on the egg wash because that's how I'd had it in one of my favorite bakeries. It was at least as good which I think is a pretty huge accomplishment.
The biggest problem is that they're not Vegan. The recipe calls for 2 sticks of butter and 5 eggs. I just couldn't see substituting that much Earth Balance and Egg Replacer. My new Vegan diet and my new bread-baking hobby were in direct conflict. I compromised and had a slice (okay two) and gave the rest away to some very appreciative coworkers.
So now I'm even getting ahead in the book. It'll be nice to have a week or two to spare when I'm feeling lazy. This weekend, I also made the Lavash crackers that are in the picture above. We'd been invited to a party and asked to bring an appetizer. I wanted to bring something homemade and Vegan (in case there wasn't anything else for us to eat - there was actually - a ton of really great food), so I thought I would try these. I bought some Muhammara at a great little local gourmet grocery shop. I'd never had it before, but oh my God, it was sooo good (the muhammara, I mean even though the crackers were good, too.) I'll definitely have to try to make it. We walked to the party with this little basket of homemade crackers and muhammara on my arm. It felt so old-fashioned in a happy kind of way.
Finally, I'm giving up beer. I asked my husband rhetorically yesterday, how I could spend months eating Vegan and still not lose any weight. I mean I've given up cookies, M & M's, nachos, etc. It was really just more of a lament that a question that I wanted answered, but he, in such a male kind of way, immediately answered "alcohol". It's not like I'm a lush (I guess that's what they all say), but I do really like to have a beer or two or glass of wine especially while I'm cooking which as you know I've been doing more of lately. So apparently, more cooking = more alcohol. Anyway, I decided my husband has a good point, so since it's the first day of a new month, I'm going to give up alcohol for the whole month of June. We'll see how I do.