"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Some days, I find myself pondering a bit at the shape my life has taken.  And often having a private giggle over it.  Getting stoked on bread baking, defending the coolness of knitting, my days' highs and lows dependent on (among just a few other things) successes and failures in the kitchen...is this Laura Ingalls wanna-be the person I envisioned I would one day become? 

Truth be told, I can't really remember.  As a child, I do remember digging on Laura, and figuring life would be so much lovelier if I could wear long dresses all the time.  Any character out of "the olden days" excited my interest.  I spent a rather large portion of my childhood pretending to be someone else...A pioneer seeking a new life, on the Oregon Trail...a Jane Eyre that was not so proper that she had to run away from Mr Rochester...a member of the Swiss Family Robinson, stranded on an island in an awesome treehouse...an escaping Von Trapp, singing my way over the Alps.  (Siblings and cousins were recruited for many of these capers.  Provided they follow my vision.  Of course.)

So, I suppose it's not overly surprising that I find myself here, drawn to the crafts and traditions of the past, romanticizing a simpler way of life.  All the while feeling very fortunate to benefit from modern convenience.  No late night jaunts to the outhouse for this voting, speaks-her-mind, wears-pants-if-she-feels-like-it, gal, that's for certain.

One convenience in particular makes my dedication to handmade a whole lot more do-able:  my trusty bread machine.  I only use it for kneading, because who can be asked sparing either the time, or the energy on working the dough into a good texture?  Not me.

I often tweak my Go-to Loaf recipe, based on what sounds good, or what is lurking in the cupboards, and this version is my latest incarnation.  A handful of seeds, a pinch of fennel, butter and honey create a heavenly, soft loaf, with a good, crusty exterior.  Just the thing to bring out your inner Laura.

Fennel, Sunflower, and Sesame Seed Bread
-makes one large loaf

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbs melted butter
1 tsp honey
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 cup mixed sunflower and sesame seeds, plus more for sprinkling on top
pinch coarse sea salt (I used a Himalayan pink salt)

In the pan of your bread machine, pour the warm water, then add the yeast, melted butter, honey, and salt.  Leave for about 5 or 10 minutes, until the yeasts comes alive and looks frothy.

Add in the flours, and set the machine to the dough cycle.  (Mine is 1 1/2 hours, including the rise.)  At the add-in beep (or near the end of mixing, if you, like me, never manage to be in the same room at the time it beeps), add in the fennel, sunflower, and sesame seeds, and let the dough finish its cycle in the machine.

At the end of the dough cycle, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board.  It will likely be quite sticky, but this is a good thing.  If you add too much flour, your bread will be too heavy.  With a bit of practice, it's easy to work with, using a dough scraper, and flouring your hands to keep the dough from sticking to them.  Shape the dough into a large round, using this technique, then cover with a large plastic garbage bag, and leave to rise until doubled in size.  Depending on your room temperature, this will take anywhere from three quarters of an hour, to an hour and a half.  Give or take.

At the end of this second rise, you can either bake the loaf, or punch it down, reshape, and allow it to rise one more time, the end result being a lighter, more pillowy bread.  Do not rise more than 3 times, or your yeast will lose its oomph, and not have enough left in it to rise in the oven.

When the dough looks to be nearly risen, and you can gently push a finger into it without it springing back immediately, preheat the oven to 500 deg F.  Set the kettle to boil some water, and place two baking sheets, one with rimmed sides, in the oven to preheat.

Set up your ingredients near the oven:

A very sharp serrated knife, or razor blade
A spray bottle of water
Sunflower, fennel, and sesame seeds, and coarse salt, for sprinkling
A dough scraper for lifting the bread from the board
Kettle of boiled water

Remove the rimless baking sheet from the oven, and carefully transfer the risen loaf to the sheet.  It may fall a little bit, but not too much if you're gentle.  Working quickly, but carefully, slash the dough across the top, 3 times, about 1/2 an inch deep.  Spritz with water from the spray bottle, and sprinkle with seeds and salt.

Place the loaf on the upper shelf, in the middle of the oven, and with the utmost care, quickly pour the boiled water into the rimmed baking sheet, while it's on the lower shelf (you don't want to transfer a sheet pan of boiling water), and shut the oven door.  The faster you can manage this, the less heat will escape, and the better your bread will be.  The water from the spray bottle, and the steam rising off the baking sheet, conspire to give you a beautiful, crisp crust, so don't skip this step.

Set the timer to 10 minutes, and spritz with water a couple of times, if you like.  When the timer goes off, re-set it to 10 minutes, and turn the oven down to 425.

Now the bread will have been baking twenty minutes.  If it looks to be browning rather quickly, turn the heat down to 375, at this twenty-minute mark.  If it still looks rather light, keep the heat at 425.  Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the bread is golden brown, and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, for a total of 40 to 45 minutes.

And there you have it.  I do believe Laura would be envious of our time-saving techniques and gadgets, don't you?

The bread will keep for 2 days, wrapped in a plastic or paper bag.  To reheat, and re-crisp the crust, spritz with water, and bake for ten minutes, at 350.

Have a lovely day.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Well, yesterday got away from me.  I didn't quite manage to get to posting that promised recipe, because, you see, important things needed attending to.  Important things including such responsibilities as:  a sunny day, an afternoon swim with the gals and our kiddos, and yoga, also with the gals.  But I'm here now, although the sun is no longer, with a summery recipe to refresh and revive.

Perhaps it'll encourage that sunshine to come back, and stay awhile...

This is one of those last minute, "hmmm...what have I got around here to throw together, quickly?" sort of dish.  I made some veggie sushi last night, to celebrate the somewhat reluctant appearance of the sun, and needed a little something fresh and easy to go with it.  The veggies were all those left over from sushi prep (I really prepped far too many veggies, but who's complaining?), the rice noodles have been lurking in the back of my pantry for eons, and the fresh herbs came from our CSA box.  Add a squirt of this, a squeeze of that...and away we go.  Dinner in five.

Summery Rice Noodle Salad with Lime and Sesame Oil Vinaigrette
-serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

Approximately 200-250 gram package thin rice noodles
1 1/2 to 2 cups julienned or finely sliced vegetables:  carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, spring onions, cucumber, green peppers
1/2 to 3/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, stems included
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanuts

6 Tbs soy sauce
juice of 1 1/2 limes
2 to 3 Tbs sesame oil
4 to 6 Tbs mirin (if you don't have mirin, substitute 1 to 2 Tbs of honey)

*Note*   The ingredient amounts are approximate.  This is one of those recipes you make to suit your tastes.  If you prefer a sweeter vinaigrette, use more mirin.  If you like it saltier, up the soy sauce.  Use more or less sesame oil, depending on how aggressive you want the dressing.  Taste as you go, substitute another ingredient if you feel like it, and be creative!

In a large bowl whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together.  Set aside.

Cook your rice noodles according to package directions.  If you picked up your package at an international market, like I did, and it has no discernible directions, other than such ever-so-helpful gems as:  "Cook a little while, then it completes." Or:  "After stirring, put it in a dish, then you can have it"...If these are the extent of your directions, then just boil the noodles, and check every minute or two (mine took about 3 1/2 minutes), then drain, and run under cold water.  Allow to drain for a few minutes in a colander, gently squeezing the excess water out of the noodles.  (If you leave them too wet, your dressing will be diluted.  Thin rice noodles are pretty springy once cooked, and can handle a bit of a squeeze.)

Toss the noodles with the dressing, then throw in the veggies and herbs, and top with peanuts.  Serve with some thinly sliced green chili, or a few dashes of Sambal.

There you have it.  Couldn't be simpler, or more refreshing.  A wonder of a salad for a hot day, when you cannot be asked spending much time inside, away from that precious sunshine.

Here's hoping it returns soon!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Long Weekend

We've just returned from our annual Father's Day surf trip.  Most years, we head down to the Oregon Coast, to celebrate the Mister by doing what he loves best. Usually Summer Solstice and International Surf Day fall on the same weekend, giving us further cause to celebrate.  (This year the dates didn't line up.)  We used to rough it, and camp for the weekend, but these days, we tend to rent a house.  I suppose that means we're getting older, but it saves getting soaked in the rain showers.

Here's a bit of what we got up to:

Surf checks...

...fun and games...

 ...wave jumping...

 ...ladybug love...

 ...bodyboarding Kiddos, with the Boy showing the Girl how it's done...

 ...a little mermaid action...

 ...pure bliss.

Ah.  That's the stuff.

Happy Summer Solstice to you.

And Happy International Surf Day!

PS - Back tomorrow with a recipe.  And guess what...the season's first CSA box has arrived!  It's that time again!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I'm somewhat tardy on this post, but well, better late than never, I suppose.  Check out this wee treasure:

A lovely glassybaby candleholder, which I won (!) on a giveaway, courtesy of Dreams on 34th Street.  Lynne was kind enough to mention The Well Fed Soul on her blog, in this post, about a month ago.  (Thank you, Lynne!)  I have been meaning to post a photo of my glassybaby for some time, but with all these dreary, rainy days, I have not been able to get the right light, to do the piece justice.  At last, on Monday, the sun broke free from the ever-looming clouds, and allowed me to (finally!) capture a decent photo.

Glassybaby is a Seattle business, that creates unique, beautiful, handblown glass.  They also donate a portion of their profits to charitable causes, many of them local, with an emphasis on, in their words, "health, healing, and quality of life."  And I am now the proud, fortunate owner of one very beautiful piece.

Lucky me!

Have a beautiful day!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Sweet Life

I'm happy to report that our Island weekend was a success.  Within minutes of our arrival, we felt at home, and could so easily envision ourselves living there, surrounded by small communities, farms, and the briny scent of the sea.  This way we have of yearning for something new and exciting, then flying by the seat of our pants straight into it; it's kind of how we roll, when choosing a new adventure, I now realize.  Much akin to throwing darts at a map, the Mister and I throw out numerous ideas, see how they sit, and when one intuitively feels right, we go for it.  This may be viewed as a somewhat haphazard way of doing things, I realize, and yet...why not?  Thus far, it's worked for us.  Because, at the end of the day, if you're really, truly able to listen to your gut, and trust your instinct, it will tell you the right move.  Every time.  (Of course, this does involve shutting off all those annoying doubts and sidetracking insecurities endlessly circling through your brain.)  I think, when something feels right, all the way down to the very marrow of your bones, it is.  When we spend too much time analyzing and questioning our next move in life...perhaps that's our inner, instinctive self, throwing up roadblocks and barriers for a very good reason.  Perhaps we simply need to listen to, and trust our instincts, a wee bit more.

Incidentally, I'm not advocating an Act on Impulse Movement, here.  If that were the case, I'd be in serious trouble.  Wine at noon (I'd never), chocolate all day long, speaking exactly what's on my mind (believe it or not, I do edit myself...mostly)...you see it could go a little awry.  Dangerous stuff, my friends.

My point here is that, when we allow our instincts to guide us, we do tend to find ourselves in some pretty sweet spots.

The risk of failing, of our instincts being wrong...when weighed against the rewards of living life fully and with gusto, of the joy of leaping headlong into adventure...well...

...it really doesn't seem much of a risk at all, given how much fun we have on our journey, wouldn't you say?

Life is Sweet, indeed.

Eat it up.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Good Morning Food

I am often tickled by strings of words, when they can be interpreted in different ways.  For example, the title of this post:  Good Morning Food.  As in:

Mmmm...this is some goooood morning food!


Good Morning, Food!  Meet my mouth!

Or, perhaps:

Oh, Good!  Morning Food!  (Now I'm just getting ridiculous.)

A while back, I posted a recipe for Petite Crustless Quiches, from French Revolution.  Last weekend, I revisited that recipe, with a little twist.  The twist being in the form of kale, and bacon.  Yum.

We always have "special" breakfasts on the weekend, so called by the Kiddos.  Weekday breakfasts consist of either yogurt with frozen (and defrosted) berries, and homemade granola, or cereal.  So, come the weekend, we all look forward to a more leisurely meal, generally involving eggs, waffles, or homemade bagels.  And a good amount of coffee.  Of course.

The thing with preparing a special breakfast is, in my world, that while it appears to be time-consuming, it never really is.  If the natives (ie, Kiddos) are growing restless, I appease their hunger with a bit of fruit, or a small bowl of cereal, until the real meal is ready.  When guests stay over, there's nothing to it to whip up a batch of something that looks impressive, but is truly simple.  Like these mini quiches.

You could add absolutely anything to these wee bites:  some steamed, chopped asparagus, any variety of herbs, cheeses, proscuitto, pancetta...you name it.  Get creative.  These are delicious served hot, or at room temperature, for breakfast, brunch, or any meal, really.

Here's how I made them:

Mini Bacon, Kale, and Feta Quiches - adapted from French Revolution
-makes 12 mini quiches, serves 4 to 6

8 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup crumbled feta
3 or 4 slices of bacon
a few stalks of kale, ribs removed
a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
sprig or two of fresh dill, fronds only, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
butter or vegetable oil, to grease muffin tin

First, cook your bacon.  I prefer to cook mine on a baking sheet in the oven, 400 deg F.  It takes around 15 minutes, turning once mid-way through. When crisp, drain on paper towels, then chop. 

While your bacon is cooking, prepare the rest of your ingredients, beginning with your kale.  Bring a small saucepan of water to boil, and add your kale, with the ribs removed.  Cook on a medium-high heat until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain in a colander, and once cool, squeeze out the excess water.  You will have a small, handful-sized ball.  Chop this up.

Beat eggs, then stir in milk, salt and pepper to taste, herbs, and kale.

Once your bacon is finished cooking, turn the oven down to 375 deg F.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

Add equal amounts of chopped bacon to the bottom of each muffin cup, then pour over the egg mixture.  Add the crumbled feta to the top of each mini quiche.  Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until the quiches just begin pulling away from the sides of the tin.  Leave to cool in the muffin tin for about 5 minutes, then remove gently, using a knife to loosen the sides, if necessary.

Easy peasy.  And serious Good Morning Food.

Our family is off for the weekend to the Island, to scout for a place to call home.  I'm whipping up two batches of these babies, to bring along for breakfast:

These bagels are another super simple, yet very impressive meal.  If you have a bread machine, seriously, break it out, and get a batch rolling.  It's a foolproof recipe, and who doesn't love fresh bagels and veggie cream cheese in the morning?

I know I do.  Happy Weekending, everyone!