Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I love... Baking with Zoe!

Last night my Mom and I got to bake with Zoe. Zoe Francois from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, or in this case, Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day. We took the class at Cooks of Crocus Hill, a fabulous cooking-supply store in St. Paul and location extraordinaire for cooking classes with notable local and national chefs.
If you've ever spent any time on my blog you'll know that I've been happily baking my way through Zoe and Jeff Hertzberg's books, loving every tasty morsel that has emerged from my corn meal dusted oven. When the opportunity came up to actually take a class with them, I leapt at the chance. What a thrill the evening was! (the Master recipe, baked in a dutch oven (L) and on a pizza stone (R)

Zoe dove right in with some of the basics of their method, very helpful for the uninitiated in the class and fun for those of us who have read their words in the book and now had a chance to hear her voice saying the same words. She discussed the popularity of the 1st book (over 250,000 copies printed!) and how there was such a demand on their website for more recipes using whole grains, that they embarked almost immediately on their 2nd book. I learned later in the evening that they are in the testing mode for book number three, a flat breads and pizza book. She mixed up a batch of the Master Recipe from the Whole Grain book and allowed the participants to see how it is done, to compare the dough before and after the two hour counter rise and then also the difference between loaves just formed and post-rise.
For me the biggest thrill was to see her hands in action. As a trained pastry chef (and mother of two boys), Zoe obviously can work with her hands. Long, thin fingers, nimble and able, quickly whisked the dough out of the bucket and into a puff of flour, emerging only seconds later as a round ball, ready to become a beautiful loaf of whole wheat deliciousness. I tried to imagine just how many loaves she must have formed throughout the years, with this method and also during her days as a working pastry chef. I have seen the transformation in my own hands; from the first awkward and sticky batch to my recent adventures where I run in the house, open the fridge door, and with a swift pull, the bucket is in my hands, onto the counter and a loaf of bread is soon rising. It is just that fast. Really. If you haven't tried it, get moving. It really will change your dining repertoire.
Zoe baked up a storm along with the help of four trusty Cooks of Crocus Hill assistants, plus a dishwasher. At any given time she was working on three or four loaves, plus talking about another and answering a question about a different topic. I lost track of all the treats she created, but you'll see highlights in the photos that follow. Zoe's teaching style was entertaining and fun. She was supportive of our new baking endeavors, encouraging us to post on their website when we have questions or come up with new bread ideas. When one attendee was referring to one of the evening's creations and said, "Oooh, I can do that..." Zoe replied with a grin, "Yeah, you can!"
Pain d'epi- shaped like wheat stalks Killer pizza from the whole wheat master recipe. Msemmen (Algerian Flatbread) with an amazing combination of aromatic spices. A baguette studded with whole, raw garlic cloves. Betsy's seed bread Naan (L) and Pita bread (R)

Pear Tarte Tatin, the grande finale that came out of the oven at 9:25, though the class was scheduled from 6-9 p.m. As Zoe promised, it was worth the wait and would wow any dinner guest you'd serve it to. Mmmm.... goodness! Who wants to come over to my house to try it?
Another highlight for me and my mom was the group of attendees. Everyone seemed thrilled to be there, hovering over bowls of yeasty dough, sharing tips from their own experiences, telling tales of their own blogs and photo endeavors. The talent in the room was quite evident.
As for me? I've got a few blog-mamas coming over on Friday morning for another play date and I am trying to decide which one of these yummy breads I'll be serving with our lunch. My kitchen counter looks like a cooking show at the moment, ingredients everywhere, waiting for me to get mixing.
Zoe shared with us that she usually has 5-7 buckets going at any given time in her fridge. What kind do you have in yours?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guess Who?

Guess who came to our house again?
This time, an orange fairy!
What kind of tooth fairy traditions do you have at your house?
p.s. I'm headed to the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day class tonight with my mom. Can't wait!

Friday, February 19, 2010

I love... Puddles

Have you been out stomping in the puddles lately? It feels like March around here and we don't mind a bit!

Louise finally fits in the skirt I made from recycled fabric many moons ago!
The fact that she didn't mind sitting in the freezing water when she fell might indicate that we are ready for some serious potty training. Ouch, so cold!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I love... Bagels

Bagels, schmagels. I had always been tempted to try my hand at making bagels, but figured that with kids underfoot, the idea of boiling the dough was ridiculous. When the recipe for bagels showed up in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and then again in the Star Tribune recently, I figured my time was up.
There was no school on Monday and the boys decided that bagels would be a fun way to pass the time while Louise napped. They helped mix, stir and play with the dough while they sat perched on the kitchen stools. Later in the afternoon we formed the dough into little balls and let them nap under their saran wrap blanket for about 20 minutes.
With a finger inserted into the middle and a little twirl of the wrist, they quickly transformed themselves into bagel look-alikes, or maybe donuts headed for the grease.

After two minutes boiling on the first side and another minute on the other, you take them out of the water to rest on a lightly floured dish towel. They dry out a bit and the moisture is absorbed by the flour and the towel. At this point, you top them with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or whatever strikes your fancy.

They bake at 400 degrees on a pre-heated pizza stone for twenty minutes. I didn't think it would be possible to replicate the chewy texture of a bagel or the slightly rubbery outside... but Zoe and Jeff lead the way. A lot of work? Yes. Worth it? Maybe. Fun? Oh yeah.
What's your favorite flavor?
p.s. If you're just getting started with baking the Five Minutes a Day way, make sure to take a peek over here. Zoe is baking her way back through the book and offering tips for new bakers.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I love... Sewing

On Valentine's Day morning, Louise finally got the robe I was planning to sew for her for Christmas. Just a few months late, she didn't seem to mind. Two years ago I sewed the same pattern (Mc Call's 4283) for the boys for Christmas. They still fit, albeit a bit shorter.
After Louise tried on her new robe (which was missing a trim piece at the photo shoot--eek!), she insisted that her brothers put on their robes. I went to the closet to get out Ron's robe that I sewed for him when we were first dating and the kids were thrilled to see that he had a very similar handmade model to theirs.
I was wearing my favorite of my (ahem, five) robes and realized that it was time to either toss it to the rag pile or do something about the right armpit that was looking like a bomb went off in it. The beauty is pink and made out of this amazingly thick and heavy terry cloth. I was sixteen when I got it for Christmas from my parents and that makes it, well, embarrassingly old for a robe. I've repaired both of the armpits several times and was feeling like if I tried to fix it one more time, I would have ruined the sad thing. Fortunately my parents came over on Sunday night and I gave my mom a little wink wink and passed the poor robe off to her. Aren't moms the best at clothing repairs? Don't moms always come to the rescue when we need them?
Do you have a story about when your mom came to your rescue? Do share!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A belated Happy Valentine's Day

We hope you had a day full of warm hearts, sticky kisses, belly laughs, beautiful flowers and cuddly hugs.
We sure did. Happy day-o-love to you and your loved ones.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I love... the winter

These past weeks have made this winter tolerable. I was getting really tired of the cold, cold and more cold. But these past few have been warm (for winter, that is) and snowy. For me at home with the kids, this is all I need. We've been playing out side every day, many times a day. These photos were taken from Louise's window this morning. We love the morning sun and frost.
And the icicles... do your kids love them as much as mine? As we drive around in the van, we sing a little song "We are icicle seekers... and we seek icicles...."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I love... Pin cushions

A few weeks back, Freckled Nest's Leigh-Ann had a tutorial on making pin cushions. I've had my sights set on making pin cushions for the women in my craft group since before Christmas.
They were supposed to be a part of our Christmas gift exchange with eachother. Out of the group, only one has come through with her gift. (It was impressive!) We're busy moms and well, these gifts probably are one of the lowest priorities on our lists. But, as a part of Leigh-Ann's tutorial and pin cushion love, she offered a pin cushion exchange. As with most things in my life, I need some sort of deadline. I joined in the exchange and have already put my pin cushion in the mail to my partner. While I was at it, I created these fun ones and a few more for my crafty girls. (Don't you just love Amy Butler fabrics?

And you? Have you been inspired to do anything crafty or creative lately?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I love... A Chance Meeting in the Blogosphere

A few months ago I was reading the comments on another blog and saw the name of a blogger I thought could be a potential neighbor. Her blog name was Minnesota:Madre. Hmmm... a Spanish speaker, Minnesota, and a fellow mother? My kind of woman! I went to her blog, left her a comment and soon heard back from her. We discovered that not only is she local and a mother of three, but she quickly informed me that we had previously met and she knows both of my siblings. What? Our friendship quickly developed and soon she introduced me to another local blogger and stay-at-home mom who also knows my siblings.
Kerry, Sarah and I met a few weeks ago for a cup of late night coffee and some amazing conversation. Already it feels like I've known these two since I was five. Last week we planned a play date with the kids (we all have four year-old boys!) but one of Kerry's clan was sick. Instead, Sarah and I gathered with five out of our six kids. Such fun for all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I love...

I'm a few days late coming into the game, but I'm joining some friends for a month of "things I love..." posts. You can check in here for a list of other bloggers working toward the same goal. It is meant to be an exercise in daily blogging (or occasional, in my case) and capturing the simple and wonderful aspects of our daily lives that we appreciate and love. Stay tuned.
My first love for February? Working on projects with my kids. Our pretzel house didn't happen this year at Christmas, so we are calling it a Valentine's house this year. We're on our way. The roof, frosting snow and valentine candy decor happen this afternoon while Louise naps.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Tooth Fairy

The tooth fairy came to our house this week for the second time. In the life of an almost-seven year old, this is big stuff. Huge, even. Carl's first tooth fairy visit was prompted by a visit to the dentist to remove an infected tooth that had been knocked a few years ago. He was fine with that and enjoyed having the tooth fairy come, but this time, the tooth fell out on its own natural time table. It had been wiggly for weeks but he finally gave it the necessary twist this week while playing in his kid-fitness class at the local YMCA. At bedtime, Carl remembered to get a glass of water and drop his tooth in the bottom.
You see, there are several different kinds of tooth fairy experiences. Growing up, my mom always made a little pillow with a teeny pocket where you lovingly placed your tooth at bedtime. In the morning, there was a small coin stuffed in the teeny pocket. At our house, we drop the tooth in a glass of water and in the morning, the tooth is gone, but the water has turned a different color. Depending on the color fairy that visits, the fairy dust from their wings tints the color of the water. Last time, she was green. This time, purple.
P.S. To answer some of your questions: The tooth fairy still leaves a financial gift, but I think most of the excitement comes from the water changing colors. The first tooth garnered a golden dollar coin and the subsequent teeth are fetching a whopping 25 cents. Hey, his allowance is 50 cents a week, so he thinks this is a great deal. Half of his allowance, for a tooth!
I thought the idea of fairy had come from my sister, who is a first grade teacher, but she seemed surprised by the story when I mentioned it last week. So, I'm not sure where this fairy dust idea came from. I still love the pillow idea, but since we celebrated the fairies, tomptes and elves at Grandma camp this summer (see a July-ish posting!), we were hoping that the tooth fairy would do some magical things with her fairy dust.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chocolate Love

My friend Kristine introduced me to an amazing new splurge: Chile Limon Chocolate Bars by B.T. McElrath, a local chocolatier. She found it at a fun little local store called Sugar Sugar, located on 38th and Grand in Minneapolis, an adorable all-candy store. Fancy and fun, it is full of delicious things to whet your whistle. I was primed when I walked in there yesterday with Gus, my resident candy-fiend, and I saw the tell-tale muted golds and reds from the box. Love, it is love. Go and find yourself a box, really you must. I'm normally just a dark chocolate kind of gal, but this one has a swirl of both milk and dark that you just can't beat. Run, don't walk, go find some. Even just one tiny rectangle will satisfy you, really.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

At Home With My Girl

Louise has been under the weather lately. Two weeks ago it was viral pneumonia and today, we've diagnosed another ear infection. We suspected it might be coming, as the insides of her ears were a little red and cloudy when she visited the doctor two weeks ago. Sure enough, today she's a screaming mess of pain. Fortunately, we had a prescription ready to go, just in case. She hates taking medicine, so I have her convinced that it is "unicorn juice" that makes her tummy turn pink on the inside. Love the ammoxicillin! We pass the time by painting, mostly her body and the counters.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Return to Beautiful

It snowed today. We haven't been outside to play in weeks, really. It has been cold, crunchy and yucky lately, so we've been avoiding the great outdoors and feeling sad about it. So when the skies opened up and let the white fluffy stuff fly, we were out the doors in less than a minute. I haven't ever seen the boys put on their snowpants so quickly! Unfortunately, there was a minor incident with a tunnel-digging shovel that accidentally bumped Mr. Gus in the face and drew blood.