Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks

I took this picture two weeks ago in Asheville, NC. The leaves are nearly done with their show of colors, and that can mean only one thing: Thanksgiving time. Last year I wrote a post detailing just a few of the things I'm thankful for, and I'd like to make that a tradition. Without further ado, here are just a few of the things that I'm grateful for this year.
For my health, and the health of my loved ones. I had surgery in March, and I'm very thankful to have had no complications and a relatively easy recovery. I'm grateful for all the people who helped out during that time.
For the opportunity to take another amazing trip to California, and to have Mom with us this time. I am grateful to have a Mom who's so fun that you WANT to take her with you on vacation, and a Hubband who's so wonderful that he's glad she's there too.
For the renovations we did on our home. I'm thankful we were able to do them, that they turned out even better than we hoped, and that we don't have a single contractor horror story to share.
And always, never last nor least, I'm so thankful for Hubband. He's my greatest gift and my biggest supporter. He takes care of me, makes me laugh every day, and always inspires me to do and be better.
Happy Thanksgiving to you, and may you have much to be thankful for.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I will attempt just about any recipe that you set in front of me, provided of course that it sounds interesting, and I have finally gained enough experience that a new recipe will usually turn out pretty well. I have developed so much confidence in the kitchen that now I've even acquired the disturbing habit of often trying out a new recipe on company.
One area of cooking that I really want to get better at, and really develop a feel for, is bread baking. I've got my standard sandwich loaf all wrapped up, but I also love a good chewy and crusty loaf, and that's what I want to gain the ability to bake.
On a recent evening that company was coming, I decided to combine my bad habit of new recipes with my doughy aspirations for a double-whammy of inexperience and the unknown. Fortunately, even with some small deviations from the recipe (accidental) everything turned out very well, and these were my best loaves yet.

I mean really. Look at that crumb structure! Look at the lovely air pockets! The lightly browned, crusty-chewy crust! I was so proud of it, I called my mom to describe it. I got off the phone quickly as our friends C & B arrived, and we sat down to this bread with creamy European-style butter and butternut squash soup. We chatted for awhile, and then had a second course of baked pork chops stuffed with prosciutto and asiago, and ended it all with caramel cake and coffee. The next day we took the rest of our soup, bread and butter over to mom's for a nice lunch. I'm still proud of that bread, and it's long gone. Not forever though...I'm making more this week to go with a broccoli soup recipe that's been brewing in my mind.

Pugliese bread, from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I'm not going to post the recipe here, because I did have some accidental variations. I'm going to bake it again the right way, see how much difference that makes, and then post whichever I like better.