Friday
May182007

Really Flat Bread

I had to invent a bread recipe the other day, so J and I could make biscuits. I'm not completely sure what's in all the bread here, so it's best to make our own. Plus, J really likes to bake, and kneading the dough is one of his favorite things. He puches it down with his little hands, and folds and turns it like a pro. Then he usually makes a face in it, paying special attention to the ears.

The yeast situation threw me. I couldn't find any Red Star, and had to explain yeast by miming bread rising. Go ahead, try it. The women in the shops would tell me either they didn't have such a thing, or would hand me baking powder. I finally just pointed to the word I thought was yeast on a bread package, and they gave me a brown brick from the refrigerator.

It was a yeast paste, and I had NO idea how to measure that out, or mix it in. In the States, you put the contents of the yeast packet in warm water and let it dissolve and foam before proceeding with your recipe. I finally randomly found some dried yeast, but it called for mixing it directly with 1Kg of flour, no dissolving necessary. I had to buy a whole new bag of flour for this, as I had no way to measure out 1Kg, and decided to wing the rest of it. I mixed the yeast and flour, then added about 1/2 cup of sugar, some salt, and then took half of the dry mixture and threw it into the freezer. Hopefully it will keep. Then we added very warm water until the dough looked like dough, then kneaded the heck out of it. It was really stiff, but we managed it. We let it rise, which it did, thankfully, then I made a HUGE mistake and tried to add honey, which of course
meant we couldn't get the dough to stick together any more. So we made weird shapes with half the dough, and put the
other half in the fridge in a bag. We stuck the biscuits in a cast iron pan to rise again. They rose fine, and we cooked them, and they were pretty good. They were like rocks the next day, though. I think we'll add some melted margarine
next time, as I've heard it helps the bread keep.

The next day, yesterday, I tried to pull of hunks of the dough in the fridge, but they wouldn't rise, so I pulled the dough sort of flat and made a sweet pizza -like shape. It was good for about 90 minutes, then became homemade duck food.

So yeah, don't add honey after the first rise.

I'll try to do some more with about half of what's in the freezer, then report back.

Tuesday
May152007

Dairy Free

Tonight, J and I had honey and jam sandwiches for dinner. It would be peanut butter, but we're still sorting out a food intolerance that has recently appeared. It seems to be mostly milk, but there's something else lurking that hits him every few days, and honestly, I don't have the resources to do a healthy elimination diet over here, so we're doing the best we can.

It's a little frustrating becasue I did all the things you're suppossed to do to keep this from happening. Breastfed 2+ years, no formula, no whole milk or peanuts until he was 2, and then out of nowhere in March he starts pooing blood and mucous. Three DR visits, including one ER later, it's not bacteria, it's food, and a child who lives off of cheese and yogurt can no longer have them. In the states it's not so bad, as there's readily available, soy/rice/almond milk, almond butter, and other delicious things he'll eat, but here it's a bit of a hassle to get to the stores with the rice milk, which comes in tiny tiny boxes. Last time I went to the store I bought 16 boxes. That will last us about a week, I think. There's also no sweet potatos or winter squash, which I find surprising in a country that puts regular potatos in everything. How hard can it be to grow a squash? Those were my two go-to, high nutrition, peace of mind foods for him.

Of course, this coincides with him being in the throes of toddler food refusal. The only vegetables he'll eat are avacado and carrotts, and the only fruits are peaches and bananas. He'll eat chicken, turkey slices made to look like sails, meatballs (straight ground beef in balls), cheerios, oatmeal, honey, jam, bread, plain muffins, and of course rice milk.

Now that I wrote that down, it doesn't seem too awful. I'm just bummed about the vegetable thing. He used to eat peas by the fistful, and blueberries constantly, but not now. The other day he asked for blueberry mufifns, and we made them (dairy free, of course), and he picked the blueberries out. Ugh. I'll make zuchinni muffins next time. That'l show him...

I am thankful it's intolerance and not allergy, so if he does sneak ice cream he won't die. It is alwasy disturbing to see blood issuing from your child, though, don't you think? ANd it's a good thing I did most of the cooking from scratch already, or this would be much harder for us.
Alright, gotta run. Tomorrow, I'll tell you all about marinara sauce.

Monday
May142007

Taco time

One thing I like about this country is it is just assumed that babies and small children will nap in their strollers outside. In the States, it seems if your child is not sleeping by themselves flat on their backs in a crib, you must be some kind of failure of a parent. J has always preferred motion for sleep, especially as a baby, and even now, at 2.5, he's napping in the stroller again. It's usually only about 40 minutes, but yesterday it was 2 hours. He's got a bit of a cold, so he needed the extra sleep. Here's a shot of him passed out on the balcony of our apartment.

I got this monster stroller, a Huack, threee weeks after we got here, as the Quinny Zapp, while a fine, compact umbrella stroller, was not well sutied to napping or long walks on the bumpy streets and cobblestones. J even said one afternoon, after a long walk, "I'm tired of all the bumpies." He loves the new one. Even thought it's massive, it's perfect for the nap, an essential part of our day. Full recline, footrest, and all that other stuff.

We had tacos for dinner last night, with the leftover hamburger meat. J didn't touch it, preferring instead to fill himself up with some unidentified Italian biscuits. I meant to just get shells and sauce, but accidentally picked up the "taco kit". It wasn't bad, but it wasn't NEARLY enough food, and I ended up eating a rice cake afterwards. My husband had a supplemental bowl of cereal.

Tonight we make the chicken! Hooray for fail-safe food.
Thanks for reading,
-Anne

Saturday
May122007

Where's the beef come from?

It's almost time for dinner, and I'll be making plain penne for J and I, then hamburgers for my husband when he gets home later. The burgers here are quite tasty, although you can't get a decent one in a restaurant. They do all sorts of tradional dishes with ground beef, but in the 1,000 years since this country's existed, it seems no one thought to smash the meat together and cook it that way.
I think it tastes better because of the way the cattle are raised. I'm sure they have their version of factory-type farms, but since this area doesn't have the grossly subsidized corn surplus that America does, the ruminants are allowed to ruminate. As usual, animals allowed to be what they are, and eat what they are suppossed to, taste better and are better for you.
If you're interested in this kind of stuff, namely, where your food comes from, read this book.
It's The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It's great. When I read this, I was already going down the path to eating more whole foods. I kept the boxed, bagged food to a minimum, although I do admit to a love for canned peaches, organic and in juice, of course. One of the biggest points I took away was about the eating habits of animals, and it's eventual effect on us, and the planet. My favorite example is that cows should eat grasses. In American Factory Farms, where we get the vast majority of our meat, cows are forced to eat corn, which makes them so sick they need antibiotics just to stay alive long enough so we can kill them and eat them. Makes a lot of sense, right? So the next time you want beef, get grass fed. The difference in taste is unbeleivable. I can tell now when I have factory beef, although it's not often. If I can't at least get "naturally raised", I'll just get something else for dinner.
Speaking of which, it's time. J has already pulled his chair up to the counter, and is trying to get the pot out. Cheers!

-Anne

Friday
May112007

Chicken Dance

My family and I are currently overseas for my husband's work. We're in one of the Baltic States, and I find the food situation to be less then desirable, but I enjoy the challenge. I remember the first time, back at home, I was able to roast a chicken without lookng at a recipe, I called Mumzel and told her because I was so proud of myself. As a full-time Domestic Engineer for almost three years, I'm finally getting to the point where I feel like I know what I'm doing, housewise. The boy is another story, but we stomp our way through.
So here's how you roast a chicken, from memory.
Take a nice chicken, preferrable organic, prefferably fresh, preferrably cage-free (although that can be a bit of a misnomer). These things make a difference, and not just in chickens. It should not necessarily be a "vegetarian" chicken, as chickens were made to eat bugs, and should be allowed to stuff themselves silly with beetles and worms. Or at least something abit meaty.
Wash the chicken, adding a little dance for your children's sake. Your kids ARE cooking with you, right? If they are small, you need one of these.

I have no idea who this kid is, but she's cute.
It's the Learning Tower, and it's usually about $149.00 USD with free shipping from most websites. Worth every penny, even in a tiny house like ours where I must move it to the counter every time we use it. It's heavy, and can hold two kids, although my son is really possesive about his. A chair or librarian's stool also works just fine.
So where were we? After the chicken dances, rub it with olive oil or butter, then Sea Salt , or Kosher, depending on what you're going for, and freshly ground black pepper. Smear some under the skin if you can. Then, have your kid shove a a multi-pierced whole lemon in it's butt, or whatever that hole is. Lightly brown it on all sides in your dutch oven, or cast iron pan, whichever pan you have that can do stovetop and oven. Then, put it, BREAST SIDE DOWN in the 375 oven and add some white wine, like a cup or so. Baste every 20 minutes. It takes about an hour for a 3.5 lb chicken, and about 1.25 hours for a 4.5 pound chicken, but you know what your oven can do.
To make it a one-pot dinner, peel and cut up some carrotts and potatos, toss them in a teency bit of olive oil, and throw them in the pot, too. It doesn't really seem to make more than 5 or ten minute difference in the cooking time.

Three notes:
I originally put the chicken breast side down by accident. I didn't know which side was which. It turns out, breast meat cooks faster than dark, so the combination of breast side down (tee hee) and basting actually keeps the breast meat moist.

Let the chicken sit for about 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven. This helps the juices reabsorb back into the chicken, so you don't have a "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" moment. Well, maybe not quite that dramatic.

Make sure your oven is preheated and your pan is prewarmed, and oiled before browning the chicken. This keeps the food from sticking. If you're using Teflon, don't tell me. I will be sad.

That's all for now! Let me know how it works out.
-Anne