Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Foodie Week, and Carbohydrate Update

So, this week so far has been laden with Carbohydrates. Yes, with a capital "C". When it comes right down to it, I like to cook - but man, I LOVE to bake. I think dough is something that becomes completely addictive to work with, and batters are small miracles. I know we all should be eating less wheat, but it doesn't deter me from this unabashed love affair with flour. I find myself hopelessly wishing I knew many people in need of eating breads, muffins, cupcakes and the like since I would be so willing to share, but sadly the baked good is sometimes boycotted. Maybe that is why I do my part to keep them happy. After all, grains can be good for you, especially if you don't eat a whole loaf of bread in a single sitting and limit more refined flours.

Pancakes are in regular rotation in my kitchen, and this morning I used three non-white flours in my standard pancake mix: whole wheat, oat, and buckwheat. At first, Boy-O asked if they were pancakes since he wasn't used to the flecked buckwheat, but after the first bite, he ate twice as many as I did.

As excited as I was about the Multigrain Sandwich Bread, I got it in my head that I had to make the Lahey Peanut Butter and Jelly Bread. Yesterday, I mixed up the dough in the evening, and waited patiently until this morning to continue. It was a super sticky dough, that had peanut butter emulsified with the water. As I lifted the lid, I was happily overwhelmed with the "peanutiness" of the dough, and was daydreaming most of the morning about slicing into a perfectly dreamy PB&J bread around lunchtime.

As with all doughs, they can sometimes be temperamental and difficult to read. This happens to me once in a while, usually when I am fresh off the heels of a great dough triumph like the Multigrain Sandwich Bread. I get to thinking that I know more than the dough, which can be dangerous territory, and then very gracefully, the dough reminds me that I am not in control. Like so many other things in life, just when you start to think you have it all figured out, you are humbled into realization that you really know nothing.

Fortunately for me, this endeavor was not inedible, just not as glorious and perfect as Mr. Lahey's orignal shown on page 104 of his book. PB&J bread bakes for more than an hour in a loaf pan, and if you decide to make it, make sure to cover it with aluminum foil around the 30 minute mark. I'm glad I set my timer for a half hour, because the egg wash made mine so dark, that had I let it go longer, I think it would have burnt.

My decision to use grape jelly also proved to be the wrong move, as it melted into the bread, creating moist, yet somewhat flavorless tunnels in the finished loaf:

But perfection is something to strive for, and I now know why he says to use a seedless JAM and not a JELLY. If you are looking to make it, consider buying this book! It is after all, on the list of James Beard Foundation recommended Essential Baking Books! (Meanwhile, if you just can't wait, you can find the recipe here.)

After it came out of the oven, we went outside. We intended on a walk, but then ended up cleaning up the yard a little. I turned over 2 of my 3 plant beds, figured out how to use a contraption that assists you in pulling dandylions (I found it in my garage, and boy is THAT addicting!), and started cleaning out the garage. We decided to pull out the table, and then I washed it since it was obvious that the day was so nice that we couldn't eat our lunch indoors.

When we sliced the bread, Boy-O took the first bite, and declared that it didn't really taste like peanuts. I concurred. But it was the nicest bread! Soft, and just faintly peanut flavored, but more like it had been "tenderized" by peanuts than made dense by peanut butter. I immediately imagined that any number of nut butters could stand in for the peanuts and a loaf made even without jam would be a very nice sandwich loaf indeed. I made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on it, which passed the taste test. After each bite, he exclaimed "this is really good!", almost as if he were surprised at each mouthful.

I'd wager that anything tastes better when consumed outdoors...

I had a slice on the side of this salad which I decided to make yesterday when Marisa had posted it. I of course adapted it to use up things that I had on hand, but really just had to omit the fresh parsley and garbanzos and sub in kidneys (which I found hiding mysteriously in the back of my pantry). It is a really great salad... and one that I will continue eating for the remainder of the week, no doubt. It was good with a side of PB&J bread, too!

I'm hoping to make another pair of these beds, situated in the sunny middle of my back yard...

Which brings me to the Foodie Week portion of my post: Peef and Lo attended a dinner last night at Meritage in support of the film Fresh, which opens here on the 19th for a limited run. Several area restaurants are hosting "Farm to Table" style dinners, with focus on locally and sustainably raised ingredients. You have to click over to read the whole Burp! report, since I can assure you that if you are in the Greater Milwaukee area, you will want to book a reservation at Meritage. I know I want to!

I will be attending the event tonight at La Merenda, a tapas bar in the Walker's Point neighborhood. I've never been there, so I'm hoping this inaugural dining experience there will be one for the books! The three course tasting menu also includes tickets to the film showing at Landmark Downer Theater next week, April 19-21, which I was very excited to see after first reading about Joel Salatin here at innBrooklyn. Talia saw a lecture last weekend, and nicely summed up the philosophy of this "high priest, lunatic farmer", many points that sound as logical as they are inspirational.

Tomorrow evening, we have a "Food Blogger Carpool" going to Madison for the official launch of the new website Grilled Cheese Academy. It is not a school, just an awesome place set up by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board to find killer grilled cheese recipes. I am as excited to mingle with other food bloggers as I am the excuse to spend more time with my Husband at a food event! Like I said to Lo, I think it was the beer and cheese that won him over...

I am lately in a constant state of amazement over the people that I have met during this past year, my first one blogging. I feel like I have real, lasting relationships with people that before blogging I never would have known existed! It is inspirational to connect with people who are "geeky" about different aspects of food, be it food politics, cooking and baking, preservation, gardening, or recently - culturing (I'm looking at you, Julia!). It seems like wherever I turn for inspiration, I find genuinely friendly people, excited to share a few moments of their days with a complete stranger. It may be just to "geek out" over a recent obsession, but sometimes it is even to help with little life problems, such as marmalade that didn't "gel" and bathroom tile. This is exactly what makes my life feel so rich, so thank you to everyone new I've met, and also to those that I've known for years! Some are silver and some are gold.


  1. Where do I begin?
    First - thanks for the shout-out. Meritage is our new favorite restaurant, hands down. And they have a great patio -- so we'll have to go there this summer and hang out with a bottle of wine.

    Second - You've hit upon yet another thing we share (an obsession for ridding our lawn of dandylions :)) We have gone through at least three of those little weeder-fork thingies since buying our house, and it definitely does get to be an addiction once you get going!

    Third - Bloggers rule. I also share your love for getting "geeky" with so many great people. What's better than a community of common souls, after all?

    Have fun at La Merenda!!

  2. There is simply nothing better in this world than carbs. LOVE em. Love the blog too! What a fantastic week you had. The peanut butter bread looks so great and those garden beds? Make sure to post pictures of your pretty little Spring plantings soon!

  3. First of all, I just read this post now, and how geeked out is it that I made peanut butter bread the day after you made it?? I swear I didn't know you made it!! (I've been terribly behind on my reading!) Of course your bread is much classier than mine!

    Congrats on your year of blogging, and I concur about meeting such lovely like-minded souls, like you! It seems so random yet totally normal. It's a pleasure to take time out of my day to wonder with you about the complexities of making yogurt, and the joys of bread, any which way, and very soon, the beauties of raised beds!

  4. I love carbs. The bread looks awesome even with the "flavorless tunnels". Hah. Yes, and food always seems to taste better outside, why is that?

  5. What a lovely post. Sounds like so many fun things going on in and out of your kitchen!! I am not suprised you have made such great connections in the blogging community - since your blog is so full of your own generosity and enthusiasm. I'm looking so forward to the next year on cakewalk!


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...