Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bread Adventures Pine Nut Studded Polenta & Sweet Provencal Flatbread with Anise Seeds

I apologize for taking so long to share my progress with these fantastic breads in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  As you probably know, I haven't written much in several months.  This has been a year of slogging through the desert for me personally... I have a difficult time writing when I am not in a good frame of mind.  I think I'm a little like Thumper in the movie Bambi... remember?  "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all"  So, for much of this year - that has been exactly where I have lived.  If I can't inspire or amuse you, then I have no business spreading my miasma around!

But, that said - it has been a year of trying new things, being nice to myself, and being more consistent with the things I choose to spend my time on.... which has been MORE reading and LESS computer time :-)  Now to push on for MORE exercise!

For these breads:

The first thing I needed to learn is the difference between polenta and the corn flour in my cupboard

For cornmeal, grits and polenta, the major difference is the coarseness of the grind.
Cornmeal tends to be finer ground than polenta for example which makes for a very different texture and cooking time. Polenta is poor choice for cornbread because of this.
Corn flour (which you didn't ask about) is even finer than cornmeal.

Hominy grits (as opposed to grits) is hominy meal. Masa harina (aha!  I have seen this in my grocery store!) is nixtamalized (i.e. lye-soaked, hulled and rinsed) corn ground into a flour that you can then use to make masa, the wet dough (or you can in some places get freshly ground masa dough by the pound). In the Southwest you can often find bags of nixtamal (unground corn) in the cooler case at local groceries. This is usually ground for tamale dough because it is difficult to grind fine enough at home for tortillas.

Anyway - I could not find polenta flour at this time so I used the above definitions and decided to use the corn meal I COULD find!

Pine nuts are horrendously expensive in the one grocery store where I found them so I went back online to my favorite resource:

I know I have talked about this company before but I have to repeat - they are simply awesome!  Reasonable prices and really quick shipping!  I usually get my order within a couple of days - unbelievable for where I live.  I usually have to wait 1-2 weeks for even the quickest companies....  but I get my orders from before I even start looking for the shipment.

Above is the Pine Nut Studded Polenta...... yummy very light corn flavor (might be stronger if you use real polenta... I will try again when I do!)  And the pine nuts are a nice surprise - though my husband voted for no nuts next time around.

Below is the Sweet Provencal Flatbread with Anise Seeds

My little triangles aren't very pretty.... perhaps the bread isn't flat enough?  I am not sure but there wasn't a photo so I forged ahead in my own inimitable fashion!

The flavor of this bread is absolutely fantastic!  I am not particularly fond of anise.. but in THIS bread it is awesome.  The light anise flavor is enhanced with the addition of orange juice.... offering a unique refreshing taste.

Both of these breads made their debut at a church potluck.... while I enjoyed the polenta the best.... the potluck diners voted for the Anise flatbread hands down!

I hope you are enjoying my baking lessons and are trying some experiments of your own!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Crochet Post! Dishcloths #223-226 and 227-230

      This past week I've been working on dishcloths (trying to get ahead a little!) and on sweaters for my grandgirls.  I found a fairly easy pattern online for cardigans for them and will share when I finish them!  I also will be making a few toys for them for their Easter surprises so that will be my focus for this week!

One thing I do have to say about the dishcloths... even the ones that I tell you I did not enjoy finishing... I AM enjoying trying different techniques and ideas.  For me, this project is a little bit like an online tutorial... a self-taught class trying new crochet patterns.  And THAT is fun :-)  I still don't know what I will do when I post #365...... maybe put away my hooks and do the same thing to get into my quilting projects and use up fabric!

Dishcloths #223 - #226 from the August 2011 archives of Maggie Weldon's

#223 Wheel Within Crochet Dishcloth - pictured below on the bottom left.  I apologize for the lighting in these photos.. my dining room tablecloth didn't help much this time!  This is a pretty cloth done in triple crochet and double crochet clusters.  It worked up quickly - the instructions were clear... it's one of those that would be a pretty gift.

#224  Autumn Leaf Crochet Dishcloth - pictured on the bottom right.  This cloth is modeled after one of my favorite quilt patterns.  I chose to put the leaf color - a variegated fall-like combination of browns and rust - on a pale blue background that reminds me of a clear sunny autumn day.  This one had a bit of sewing since it is made up of granny squares but I had fun dreaming over what a quilt would look like.  I may just have to go through my yarn scraps and make an afghan with this pattern!  I can see bold orange, burgundy, brown, yellow leaves on an ice blue background :-)

#225 - Lacy Square Crochet Dishcloth  This one will be a good scrubber, that's for sure!  After my dreaming over the autumn leaves, I'm afraid I wasn't so enthusiastic for this cloth!  And I couldn't get it to lie flat to save my life.... Not a fave - and not a repeat.

#226 - Burgundy Dress Crochet Dishcloth - Now this one is just fun!  I am not sure how it will function as a dishcloth, but it was fun to do and reminded me of a good friend.  The doll dress idea is cute!  My granddaughters might enjoy them for bath washcloths :-)

The next four dishcloths #227 - #230 from the August 2011 archives of Maggie Weldon's are pictured in the photo below:

#227 Tumbling Blocks Crochet Dishcloth - pictured below on the bottom left.  Despite my definite bias toward quilting patterns, I did not enjoy making this cloth.  I found the pattern to be cumbersome and am not convinced that the final product is worth repeating!  But I'm glad I made it :-)

#228 - Summer Fan Crochet Dishcloth - I bet you can find this one!  I had fun doing this and it is definitely a scrap 'user-upper'!  Easy and quick to do, I will definitely add this to my pile of repeat cloths...

#229 Cottage Block Crochet Dishcloth - pictured above on the upper right.  My photo doesn't do this one justice.  It's really pretty AND sturdy.  The center section has a crochet pattern in it that you can't see because of my color choice.  This is another one that would make a pretty afghan, I think.

#230  Holy, Wholly, Holey Crochet Dishcloth - on the bottom right.  Lacy and pretty but definitely one of a kind.  I found the pattern hard to understand and a pain to concentrate on. 

Have fun crafting!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekly Goals 12 of 52

Week 12 of 52

1.  Pack for beach trip and prepare house for leaving
      (Pack quilt stuff for beach next week (or pack away for after Easter)  

2. House focus – Pink Bath

3.  New healthy habit: Add another fruit or veggie / create daily checklist

4. Lenten Project Downsize

5.  Attempt to add daily second exercise (30 – 45 min)
                WRITE down reasons WHY this doesn’t happen.  I am having real issues getting back to regular exercise and can’t figure out what it is.  I am sure some has to do with recovery from shoulder injury but I think there is more to it.

6.  Birthday cards: personal and church through first week of April

7.  Get tax data to accountant

8. Blogs:  Schedule Children’s Liturgy posts for Lent
                  Work on Lenten Reflections
                  Catch up on Journey

9.  Children’s Stations of the Cross event Friday

10. Spend a little time organizing workspace & setting up plan for religious education writings, etc.

            Scan photos (30 min weekly)
            BAKE new bread / crochet dishcloths
            Crochet projects
Weekly Movie night
            Desk 15 min daily – financial & personal
            Health habits: mile / green tea / salad / fruit / pedometer / outdoors/fish oil/ strength/dairy

Week 11 of 52
  1. Add quilt strip to quilt and prepare for hand quilting
               (this didn’t happen AGAIN!  And this week is winding up and packing for my beach trip NEXT week so I’m not sure what that will mean... back to the back burner for now, I think)


2. House focus – Yard – Road side  ( I still haven’t managed to get back in gear with my 15-minute focus... it’s been a few weeks.  My only consolation is that I will get back around to it.. it’s a good idea but I am having severe motivational issues)

3.  New healthy habit: Add dairy daily (I am doing pretty well with the food management, I think.  I still can’t get myself to actually LOG it but by reducing processed foods and adding good habits, I am beginning to achieve a little more balance. And am doing less thinking about what I choose when I free-range in the fridge or pantry)

4. Lenten Project Downsize
             A) inventory pantry & freezer for menu prep ( I haven’t ADDED to the pantry or freezer.  My focus in the last week or so has been produce though so I’m not sure I can say I’ve used up a lot either.)
             B) start listing books on  (I did this – mostly because I did make a few sales)
             C) Clean items for sale and ebay listing.. (still planning instead of doing.. BOO... I HAVE collected several things to clean and list.... and have found a few names of places that might handle my things for me... where I might make less $$ but use less of my time, a fair trade)

5.  Do dvd or Treadmill cardio 3 X (nope, didn’t happen.  I also haven’t managed a beach walk since my husband hurt his knee but it’s all on me, not him.  I just need to GO)

6.  Birthday cards: personal and church DONE!

7.  Post all tax data to organizer and get to accountant Posted – and a week late going

8. Blogs:  Schedule Children’s Liturgy posts for Lent
                  Work on Lenten Reflections
                  Catch up on Journey
   Actually I am doing a terrible job on the blogs... but am trying to get it back together.  I am not sure what my blockage is.... but am working on it

9.  Write up detailed notes for Children’s Stations of the Cross
            This has taken a lot more time than I anticipated.  Dress rehearsal Sunday and production March 23 so that will be completed Week 12

10. Spend a little time organizing workspace & setting up plan for religious education writings, etc.   Still happening in my head!

            Scan photos (30 min weekly)  NOPE
            BAKE new bread / crochet dishcloths  YES
            Crochet projects  YES
Weekly Movie night  YES
            Desk 15 min daily – financial & personal  50%
            Health habits: mile / green tea / salad / fruit / pedometer / outdoors/fish oil/ strength/   Some of these are great, some are lagging....

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bread Adventures - Pissaladiere AND Focaccia with Onion and Rosemary

It's been a few weeks since I've shared my bread adventures so I will remind you that I am baking my way through Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  It's kind of fun to see that the kitchen-impaired can make good bread that people will actually eat!  This adventure has been going on for several months - and people are beginning to ask me to make bread (which always makes me chuckle - but I like it!)

Anyway, this week I will tell about some of my flatbread adventures.  The book has several recipes so I will be doing flatbreads for a while - but I am glad from a reprieve from bagels (until someone catches on and asks me to make them again!)


What fun to bake at a family gathering!  I had decided that since these two breads had a lot of onions and olives.. that I would make them when the gang gathered.  Otherwise, I would probably have had to eat them all myself..... NOT a real hardship BUT not the wisest course of action when you are trying to develop healthier eating patterns!

And it is definitely fun to see the looks on my adult children's faces when I pulled my beautiful focaccia out of the oven!

We decided that there was not enough rosemary sprinkled on to suit us, so we doubled the amount.... and there was still not enough in the finished product.  The rosemary I used was from a jar though so that may have made a difference.  I decided to actually put the rosemary in the dough next time.  The carmelized onions were fun and pretty.

My favorite was the pissaladiere.... because I really do love onions.  I skipped the anchovies since we are pretty much a non-fish bunch.  I love olives but felt that they kind of distracted from the bread.  I either need to use more olives or fewer onions - or perhaps one OR the other, not together.

Both breads were good though - and completely demolished... and that tells the real story!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Healthy Habit #11 - Dairy

..or maybe I should say - a calcium-rich food.  I am mixed on dairy itself simply because of the processing and allergy issues in the industry... not that it's bad for you.  Remember, I'm no expert... just a person like you trying to be healthy! 

There are experts on all sides of the fence about how you should get your calcium.... but most agree that we need some!  Bone health is a major issue, especially as we age.

You can look online to find out how much calcium you need and all those details if you want them.  Here, I just want to say that if you focus on the habit of adding ONE serving of calcium-rich food to your diet.... it's a good bet that you are eating healthier and will add more without thinking about it.

So what can you add?

* a glass of milk

* a cup of dark leafy greens

* a container of yogurt

* a slice of cheese

* a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice

These are just a few ideas - I am sure you can come up with many more.

As for me.... my ultimate goal is to remove processed foods from my diet. 

I typically choose a yogurt (I prefer Greek with honey) and I add berries to it.   Or I go for the greens in salads and smoothies.  Or I add almond milk to my night time dessert smoothie.

It's easy.... make sure you add calcium to your daily diet.

*** I don't know about you but I am starting to forget some of my habits.  Some are engrained now and some are still hard to remember.  I am going to set up some kind of a checklist soon so I can keep track!

Let me know how you are doing :-)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Crochet Post! Dishcloths #215 - 218 & 219 - 222

What a gorgeous day!!

And I am blessed to be able to stay at home today and get a few things accomplished - especially a couple of nice long walks outside!  It's funny - since I made a habit of going outside every day.... I almost NEED to do it!  Spending a little time outdoors regardless of the weather seems to have become something I really WANT to do.

And that is the point of the new habits - to make it so easy that I do it automatically - and I miss it when I DON'T do it.... like brushing my teeth.  I would no more skip brushing my teeth than I would fly to the moon without a vehicle.  I want exercise and eating healthy foods to be just like that!

That said - I will share some of the dishcloths with you (yes, I know I've been remedial about posting them lately - but I am still crocheting away!)  I will try to catch up a little on my blogging this week - assuming I can spend the time at home!

8 new dishcloths from Maggie Weldon's 2011 challenge are below:
Patterns are in the archive at

#215 Diagonal Stripes Crochet Dishcloth - pictured below on the upper left.  It was fun to do this pattern, though we have seen it before..... I do like the patterns that use up my little bits and pieces of leftover yarn!  The actual pattern used a base color every couple of rows to coordinate it - and I did not... but I think it turned out nicely anyway.  It's a generous size too - definitely a repeat!

#216 Flag Crochet Dishcloth - I'm assuming you can figure out which one is the flag?  LOL!!  I really liked this pattern because it was EASY to do.  It worked up much quicker than I expected.  It's a good choice for a flag pattern.

#217 The Rambler Crochet Dishcloth - pictured above on the upper right.  An interesting pattern.... I'm glad I tried it to learn something new but not a fave to make nor as a favorite end product.  One of the okay ones!

#218 Tricolor Crochet Dishcloth - above on the lower right.  The cloth is thick and absorbent.  I liked the pattern but feel that changing the colors so much was cumbersome.  I may do this again with one color OR a variegated yarn.

The next 4 dishcloths are pictured in the photo below

#219 Blue Butterfly Crochet Dishcloth - pictured below on the bottom left.  Not so much blue as purple because that is what I have on hand, this one is cute!  Not particularly hard but a little cumbersome to figure out and not cute enough to do twice.

#220 Square on Point Crochet Dishcloth - below on the bottom right.  This one was fun.  The pattern says that it is easy - I would say that is true IF you pay close attention :-)  That said - it is great fun to use the scraps and watch this one take shape while you are making it.... AND you have a nice useful cloth at the end of it :-)

#221 Mexican Eye Crochet Dishcloth - pictured above on the upper left.  This one turned out absolutely beautiful!  Instructions call it easy, but I'm not so sure.. I got a little confused in the middle.  This is one that I would have to really want to HAVE in order to do it again but is pretty enough that it might happen.

#222 Blue Bobbles Crochet Dishcloth - it's a little difficult to see against my dark background.  It's a pretty lacy pattern more suited to a scarf or vest, I think.  It was easy and quick to make but a little lacy for a useful dishcloth in my opinion.

So there you have it... some crochet adventures for the week.

What are you working on?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekly Goals 11 of 52

Okay I am flailing around a bit about now!  I went out of town for a church ministry convention this last weekend which left my head reeling.... FULL of things I need to pursue.. but I am in the midst of a tornado of thoughts right now!

More to the NOW is a children's drama at my church which is being pulled together quickly and requires a lot of background work (by me) to happen easily.... and, by doing it this way, we will have an EASY blueprint for people to follow in the future - so it's important!

And that is not mentioning the week ahead of work at home - both for my husband's business, our home decluttering/cleaning project and general family care..... so I am a little befuddled...  Somehow we all want to manage our own schedules but when your schedule is pretty flexible, it can become overwhelming trying to manage it!

My game plan is to get back to following my weekly goals.. I have been setting them but not doing a good job of following them.  The last few weeks have been more 'fire-fighting' than actual methodical following the plan.  I can honestly say, though - that HAVING a plan does keep me sort of on the path to my goal... MUCH better than NOT having a plan!

Here's to a blessed week ahead for all of us!

Week 11 of 52
1.  Add quilt strip to quilt and prepare for hand quilting


2. House focus – Yard – Road side

3.  New healthy habit: Add dairy daily

4. Lenten Project Downsize
             A) inventory pantry & freezer for menu prep
             B) start listing books on
             C) Clean items for sale and ebay listing

5.  Do dvd or Treadmill cardio 3 X

6.  Birthday cards: personal and church

7.  Post all tax data to organizer and get to accountant

8. Blogs:  Schedule Children’s Liturgy posts for Lent
                  Work on Lenten Reflections
                  Catch up on Journey

9.  Write up detailed notes for Children’s Stations of the Cross
            Re-key readings and email to potential readers: George, Pak, Gall, Sibal, etc

10. Spend a little time organizing workspace & setting up plan for religious education writings, etc.

            Scan photos (30 min weekly)
            BAKE new bread / crochet dishcloths
            Crochet projects
Weekly Movie night
            Desk 15 min daily – financial & personal
            Health habits: mile / green tea / salad / fruit / pedometer / outdoors/fish oil/ strength/

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Healthy Habits Week #10

Portion control.....

I'm going to make this simple.

My fist represents an approximate CUP measure - a little more, really.

What I can hold in my hand represents an approximate HALF CUP measure.

For this week.....

take a look at your food.

If it's a green vegetable (not a bean)... eat all you want BUT eyeball it so you get a feel for what you are eating

If it's a fresh juicy fruit or a protein source (like chicken or yogurt) ... measure by the fist..... that's an approximate serving

If it's a starchy vegetable (beans, potato or corn), a starchy fruit (banana), a grain (brown rice, oatmeal), a casserole or cream soup.... use the handful concept.

If it's a SLICE (whole grain bread or cheese) .... that's a serving.

While you are eyeballing... strive for balance...

Meals: 1-2 svgs grain/bread/starch; 1 protein;  2-3 veggie/fruits

Snacks: veggie/fruit; protein

Remember: I am not a doctor.... nor am I a nutritionist... I'm just a person like you trying to make health simple.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Starting from Behind....

Yep - that is this week!

Behind in blog writing, housework, goal setting & evaluating... you name it!  I was behind BEFORE....

I had a slight headache when I went to bed Sunday night.... but was too tired to locate the ibuprofen (which has a home - but my hubby has had it attached to wherever he happens to be lately since he hurt his knee).. so I went to bed.

Well.. the headache only escalated as I moved in and out of sleep in different positions trying to minimize the pain.... and I had a terrific case of nausea by the time I gave it up at 4am.... at any rate, it was almost 1:30 in the afternoon by the time I finally began to normalize.... so Monday was pretty much a wash.  I got a few things done - but my brain was on vacation...

So here is what my week looks like now (in lieu of my goal sheet)......  today I need to drive to town to find a birthday present for my granddaughter (birthday is next week but a late scheduling of a birthday party means I need the gift for this weekend AND I have an out-of-town conference so I will miss it.. boo!) AND I need to go by the church to spend a little time hunting for the things I need for a drama - next practice is coming on Sunday.  I had hoped to have today to pack because I have to go in again tomorrow.... so I did give packing a thought or two yesterday but no energy to pull out the suitcases..  Also need to take today calmly because of the after-effects of whatever broke my system down yesterday!

Tomorrow is my son's Algebra & martial arts classes... any errands left over will happen then (food shop for the trip is most important)

In between I need to write out church birthday cards for the week & mail, blanche & freeze extra smoothie produce I bought last week, bake bread for the trip (potato bread for the men to share as well while I am gone), make sure I am reasonably caught up on laundry, bills, etc., and whatever else comes along that can't wait until I get back Saturday night.  And, maybe schedule a movie night with my guy.... though I did sneak one in on Sunday night so it's all good!

Anyway.... off to the conference by 7am Thursday morning and who knows what then....  I will not have my laptop - only a tablet so I am not sure if I will get a chance to write to you over the weekend!

Hopefully I will snag a few minutes during the conference to evaluate my February goals and maybe set up new ones for April - use March to get myself up to speed!

Healthy habit report!
    weight is down a cumulative 7.2 pounds since the first of the year... and I forget the inches - will give them to you next week. 

The habit for the week is portion control - fist is approximately 1 cup and your handful is approximately 1/2 cup.... look at your food and guess-timate what you are eating.  More on this in my Wednesday post.  Practice your other healthy habits this week too so you can be BUILDing health..... you WILL lose weight as you go along... and if you are BUILDing new habits - you won't LOSE momentum.. so it will be a SLOW but permanent loss.

Hopefully your week will proceed at a more sedate (intelligent?) pace than mine will... I wish you all the best - and talk to you soon :-)