Monday, January 04, 2010

This is what can be done when you stay off the Internet

One of my goals for this year is to stop wasting so much time online. I check my email (both of them), read the paper, read my blog list, then check facebook, then read some other blogs, then look at, then read some theological blogs--where most of the people who comment (men) are rude, and arrogant, and argumentative and keep fighting about who signed or didn't sign the Manhattan Declaration (which I kept calling the Manhattan Project for the longest, until my cousin reminded me that was that World War II nuclear deal), and that's depressing for me and by then it's 10:30 a.m., and I've just frittered away a bunch of time and have nothing to show for it. It's a terrible habit. No more. I'm limiting my time as of today.

Instead, I got up and took Lucy to school. Then I came back and did some laundry. Visible accomplishment of a task I usually procrastinate. Then I got out Elaine's new game and played with her. That was so worth it right there because as we were putting it together, she was all excited and said, "I just can't wait to play this with you, Mama!" What have I been missing all this time?

We had a blast, playing together. Then she and I bundled up and went to the grocery store and to Borders. I needed to buy a new journal and a new calendar. Here's a little tip: always buy those things a couple days into January. They're 50% off. Look, just LOOK at my new calendar:

Is that not the coolest thing you've ever seen? Every week is a different piece of cover art from a Nancy Drew book, like this:

...and they even have my favorite one:

Then I decided to try something I've never, ever done before. Yesterday I had seen a recipe (on the Internet, natch) for bread that takes five minutes to make and you don't have to knead it. Now, my mom always made bread, every single week--multiple loaves--that she mixed and kneaded and baked, and our house always smelled fantastic. The whole prospect was really daunting to me, so I always just buy multi-grain bread enriched with extra fiber and feel very virtuous doing so. But I also buy this delicious rosemary-olive oil bread, which costs way too much, and I'm lookin' at this recipe and thinking I could try it.

I was still daunted because it's on Catherine Newman's site, called Dalai Mama Dishes, and she just seems fearless and like the kind of person who grows her own produce and mills her own wheat flour or whatever and I am like the kind of person who so does not do those things. But she promised that it was ultra-easy, plus she has nice, funny instructions, such as " The dough's texture may seem all wrong: too loose, too shaggy, too sticky. This is fine." or " Turn the dough in your hands to stretch its surface, pulling it under to create a taut, rounded top and a gathered-up bottom (imagine that you're giving the dough a firming face lift and tucking all that baggy, extra skin underneath)."

Now her recipe is for some sort of ultra-grain artisan-type bread, but I thought that not only could I try this amazing feat I had never done before, but also I could mix it up a little and add ingredients not called for because if my life's motto is not "Break All Rules with Abandon," it's nothing. (Actually, my life's motto is "Always Have a Back-Up Plan," which in this case is the grocery store where I could buy the bread if I failed.)

I got Elaine to help me, and we used white flour and added olive oil and chopped rosemary instead of using all the fancy flours and stone-ground stuff and flaxseed that Catherine Newman does. She seems really cool-hippy and groovy while you know, I'm more, well, 80s. Evidenced by the fact that we played Erasure's Top 20 Hits, and Elaine danced around to "A Little Respect" and yelled, "I'm a good cooker, aren't I, Mom?"

OK, here's the mixed dough that we've set to rest for 2 hours (after the 5 minutes of putting it together, which really took longer than 5 minutes but that's because I'm brand new at this and also had a 4-year-old assisting).

Hey, look! Here it is, 2 hours later, all risen up! I couldn't believe it! It worked! I guess it's that yeast stuff I sprinkled in.

Then I cut off a third of the dough (all of it makes three loaves) and shaped it. Here it is, shaped:

Then you're supposed to hide it under a tea towel for 40 minutes so it can rest some more.

Then I forgot to take to take a picture of the loaf all ready in its pan, which is disappointing seeing as I was supposed to take you through this whole odyssey, including a dumb shot of bread under a tea towel. But, oh well. Then I baked it, and it was wonderful, just like my house when I was growing up, and that brought the happiness that only the smell of fresh-baked bread can bring.

Here is my very first loaf of homemade bread from scratch:

A side view, with my helper, coloring in the background. Is that a beautiful loaf of bread or what?

Here it is, sliced and ready to go with some olive oil and grated parmesan:

I served it for supper with this (which I also made today. You can get a LOT done when you're not on your computer.)

When I served dinner, I asked the girls shamelessly, "Is this bread the absolute best thing you have ever put in your mouth?"

"Yes," said Lucy. "It's almost just like the store kind."

"The crust is yucky," Elaine added.

I never liked her much.

For dessert, I served these. This picture does not do the color justice. They're actually made with strawberry marshmallows, so they're hot pink. I can't really tell the difference from regular ones, other than that they're a little sweeter. And you know what you really need from Rice Krispie treats is that they be a little sweeter.

Anyway, they're pink, and as you ought to know by now from this blog, you never have to pray about pink.

After that, my girls nominated me for Mother of the Year for my amazing cooking skills (despite Elaine's opinion of bread crust), and it is only January FOUR, people.

Don't worry, other mothers. There's still plenty of time for me to screw it up. I'm sure I'll manage that by tomorrow.

Oh, and if you want the recipe, here it is. Try it, and tell me if you follow the recipe or do your own thing.


Melanie said...

Okay, I'm inspired. That's it - all I've got time for! :)

Kacie said...

hah! I love your daughter's comment. I too am intimidated by bread. One day when I have a bigger kitchen that's not shared by four adults, I'll maybe shoot for a bread maker, but not now!

Juliet said...

Delicious looking! I will expect that bread at our next event in 2010!!

And you are right about things getting done when you stay off the computer..except for the thing that must be checked.

Happy New Year!