Cultivate the Garden Within…

One happy mama spider plant!

I love plants, but I normally don’t do well with them. Contrary to the rest of my family my thumb is definitely not green. Their plants are always beautiful. For my plant (notice the singular here), there is never any direct sunlight through my windows to encourage it to grow. I usually end up drowning plants, or going to the opposite extreme of not noticing them until they are brown and crisp… and forgetting them until they are on their last gasping breath. Then I feel terrible for destroying yet another (once beautiful) green growing thing.

One of the “babies.” There are probably at least eight of them now.

This spider plant, however, is thriving! It keeps sending out shoots, growing new “babies.” I just counted eight of them! This plant makes me WANT to remember to take good care of. It’s so forgiving. ๐Ÿ™‚ This plant has a will to survive/thrive despite it’s sometimes less than perfect circumstances.

I think there is a life lesson in there for me. What about you?

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Savory Mozarella Garlic Bread (Machine) Recipe

I was sitting there on my couch, reading peacefully and minding my own business, when all of a sudden the voice in my head started speaking. “It’s time to make some bread!” I protested because my book was good and I wanted to keep reading, but it was no use. “Sharon, this time create your own recipe. Don’t look at what someone else has done. Come up with something from the ingredients you have. Just try it and see what happens.”

So, out came the sour cream, mozarella cheese, garlic, and sourdough starter. I knew I should use a little rye flour to keep it savory and make it more interesting. This is what I came up with…

โ€œGood bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.โ€ –ย  James Beard

Savory Mozarella Garlic Bread

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup vanilla soymilk (or regular milk)
  • 1 cup cubed mozarella cheese (about 1/4″ wide by 1″ long pieces)
  • 9 minced garlic cloves (I’d suggest about 5 cloves unless you really like garlic flavor)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup rye flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons yeast

The top isn’t totally smooth on mine because I should have added a bit more water (maybe one more tablespoon). Between the semi-arid climate and the high altitude here, I always have to adjust my recipes.

The verdict?

I asked several friends to try some and tell me what they thought. First, though, I told them if they said it was bad I would never let them be my guinea pig again. Just kidding! They all said they were a little surprised by the taste at the first bite, but the more they ate the more they liked it. ๐Ÿ™‚ I liked it as well.

One of them thought it would make great croutons. Another felt it would be great for savory type sandwiches. Another thought it would be wonderful as toast with just butter on it. (I ate a piece of buttered toast while writing this and totally agree with their assessment!). This one is definitely a keeper.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to listen to the voice in your head.

Let me know in the comments if you try this recipe, or if you have made bread without (sort of) following a recipe and how it turned out.

Edible Art, Peace Dove

I was walking through the hall today when I came across a display for a soldier killed in Iraq. He had earned a Purple Heart medal among other things for his sacrifice. There were letters and pictures and a flag that had flown at half-mast in honor of him. This is a day I wish for peace… peace in countries involved in war, peace for families that have lost loved ones.

“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.”

I painted this bread yesterday. I will include the recipe for it later, probably tomorrow. In the meantime, I wish you peace from the inside out…

The Tree, Edible Art

I looked at the sourdough onion bread. (See recipe in my last post:ย http://lifeofcolors.com/2012/05/25/sourdough-onion-bread-machine-recipe). It looked back at me. It had fallen on it’s head when I was trying to take it out of the pan. It wasn’t badly damaged (and the flavor wasn’t affected)… just a little crinkly. What should I do?

It was time for the “food artist” to appear. Ta da! To the rescue! ๐Ÿ™‚

โ€œThe creation of a thousand forests is in one acornโ€
โ€• Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Two of my passions in life right now are baking home-made bread, and being an artist with different kinds of media. I first learned about “bread painting” a couple of months ago here: http://cheftessbakeresse.blogspot.com/p/decorative-and-painted-bread-craft.html

I took out the (edible) paints and started figuring out what to paint. I really looked at the bread and the shape of the crinkles and the folds. At first I was going to do some vines, leaves, and/or flowers… but then a tree started showing itself in the curves and crinkles! I began to paint and got more excited as I went along. I love texture and layers, and the bread texture brought out more of the trunk bark, branches and the leaves.

The crinkly bread.

The slight disaster turned into an edible work of art. I was able to give this bread to friends who had been away for several months as a welcome home gift. All of us were happy with the result! What do you think of it?

“Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.”ย  – Nikolai Berdyaev

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Sourdough Onion Bread (Machine) Recipe

I’m one of “those” kind of people. Are you as well? People who hate white bread because it has no nutrition and no flavor at all? It kind of reminds me of wearing clean, white tennis shoes while growing up. I don’t know about you, but my friends would step all over shoes like that so they wouldn’t be white anymore. They figured they were doing whoever was wearing those shoes a favor!

That’s how I feel about white bread. I “dirty” it up with some whole grain flavor and nutrition… give it some substance, some character.

I love the savory sourness of this wonderful bread!

This recipe is adapted from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/san-francisco-sourdough-bread/detail.aspx. It makes a two pound loaf.

Sourdough Onion Bread

  • 1 cup sourdough starter (see my last post – http://lifeofcolors.com/2012/05/24/the-life-of-a-sourdough-starter)
  • 2/3 cup warm soy milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons dried sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons salt (I use about 2 teaspoons because of living at a high altitude)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (or 2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast)
  • extra water if needed, about 1 tablespoon at a time

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into pan of bread machine in order listed. Make a well to put the yeast into so it doesn’t touch the liquid, salt or sugar until the machine is turned on.
  2. Bake on basic setting . Cool at least 15 minutes on wire racks before slicing.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Life of a Sourdough Starter

I was afraid I might have to call this the death of a sourdough starter. I have had a very happy sourdough starter for many months, all alive and bubbly. Recently though I was busy, not paying much attention, when I discovered I had dumped vanilla flavored soy milk into my sourdough starter. It was supposed to go into the bowl next to the starter. It was too late to get the soy milk out and there was nothing I could do about it, so I decided to just go ahead and “feed” the starter with flour. (You feed sourdough starter by adding an equal amount of flour and water, then stirring it).

Normally, sourdough starter just has flour, water and yeast in it. Click here for a primer on sourdough, full of great information! http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/sourdough-primer.html.ย  See starter recipe here. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/start-your-own-sourdough-starter-recipe#fragement-2.

So yesterday, I stirred it all up and then added more flour and water, stirred it again and waited to see what would happen. Within a few hours, as you can see, the starter got happy and bubbly again! I made a wonderful sourdough bread from it. I’ll share the recipe tomorrow. Apparently the starter didn’t mind the soy milk. Maybe it liked the soy or the vanilla flavoring? ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s a little crinkly on the top because it landed on it’s head when I took it out…

Lesson learned: it’s a slight bit sweeter at least for now, but soy milk doesn’t kill the starter!

Green Tea Infused Sunroot Soup

It was 4:45pm and I was stressed. I had a pile of people coming for my monthly bread and soup night at 5:30pm and my soup wasn’t cooperating. I had already had a few near disasters with the four different kinds of breads I made (although they ended up fine) and I just couldn’t bear the thought of my soup not turning out.

I had asked my friends if they would prefer a traditional vegetarian soup, or a slightly exotic vegetarian soup. The slightly exotic won the vote. So, I decided to make this: http://www.greenkitchenstories.com/green-tea-infused-sunroot-soup/ I figured a recipe that included Green Tea and had a main ingredient I’d never heard of had to be exotic! ๐Ÿ™‚

This is what Sunroots (also known as Sunchokes or Jerusalem Artichokes) look like…

Image

The roots look similar to ginger root but the plant is actually in the family of sunflowers.ย  This soup is made with the tubers, known as a root vegetable. It’s similar to potatoes, but has no starch and is slightly sweeter. It can be eaten either raw or cooked. It grows in the USA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunroot.

The recipe calls for peeling the sunroot, but after reading up on it I decided to leave the skin on it. It would have taken to much time to peel all the lumps and layers. (As it was it took me quite awhile just to wash them). So my soup ended up much darker than the one in the pictures included with the recipe.

So, back to my story… I had cooked the soup for the whole day the day before in the crockpot and expected it to be done. But the sunroot was still not soft and the immersion blender wasn’t doing a good job of blending it. (Living at a high altitude definitely affects things). I went to my neighbors to borrow a pan and use their stove to try to get it cooked enough… and here it was getting close to the time and it still wasn’t done!

Fortunately, a couple of friends came early. One of them worked with the soup turning the heat up and finally getting it to the point where it blended, another one helped pick stuff up and vacuumed, while I worked with my last type of bread which hadn’t had sufficient time to rise enough. It didn’t finish baking until 45 minutes into the evening. But, everything came together in the end.

Over 30 friends showed up to eat!

The verdict on the soup? “Very different. Good, but not what I expected. Interesting blend of flavors.” I think one time was enough for making this soup.

The favorite breads were the harvest bread and the three-cheese (non)-beer bread. I’ll share those recipes later.