Friday, January 31, 2014


Once upon a time...

...I started learning how to bake bread. I have walked many steps on this journey already. Miles and miles of kitchen floor have been trod in this weekly task for eight years. I am getting there. Here is my current recipe and method.

Whole Wheat Bread
makes one 9x4 loaf

 290 ml of HOT water
1 egg
1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
1/4 cup honey
1/4 olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cups of freshly milled organic hard white wheat
1 1/2 Tbsp active baking yeast

method: In a large mixing bowl add the water, egg, honey, olive oil, salt, flaxseed meal, vinegar - whisk this with a fork until well combined. Then add 2 cups of the flour and whisk this until very well combined. This helps to activate the gluten. add the rest of the flour and the yeast. Knead this for a few minutes. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Then Knead for 6-10 minutes or until some elasticity has started. (this is a semi-wet dough even at this stage. you shouldn't have a firm ball... but a smooshy amoeba of dough) Drizzle a few drops of olive oil and turn over to coat the ball. Cover the dough in the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and leave this in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.  Then preheat the oven for 350 degrees. Grease a 9x3 loaf pan with butter. (I like to use a pyrex baking dish. Makes a very evenly baked, crusty bread) Knead down the risen dough and smoosh as much of the air bubbles out as possible. Roll up like a swiss roll. Pinch closed the sides and place in the loaf pan. A light cut or two across the top can help let the air out as it rises and bakes. Let this rise for 9 minutes or so. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Albania: Pule Me Harr & Kos Me Krastabec

The second country in our travels around the world was Albania. By this point my enthusiasm for this project was building and my faith in the cookbook and my personal abilities exceeded my caution. And I invited dinner guests! There are no photos of this meal... And that's probably because it didn't look that great. Didn't taste that great either. It wasn't bad... just bland and unexciting. Pule Me Harr is basically baked chicken in walnut sauce... however my sauce didn't thicken very well and was just a bit of drippy, nut slop to put over the chicken. Disappointing. * (one star)

The Kos Me Krastabec was a simple cucumber-yogurt salad served cold. I love my own version of cucumber yogurt salad so I was very excited to try this Albanian version. However, it came out runny and goopy and lacked the zip and pizzas that I had come to expect from what I have tried before.  -* (that's right folks... if it tastes bad than we go negative!)

I had a great time listening to Albanian radio all afternoon and drinking my own wildflower and spice herbal tea blend and chatting with my lovely guest. I also enjoyed pursing the results of a google search on Albania. I mostly stuck with Wikipedia and google image searches with the keywords being 'albanian landscape/countryside/castles/lakes'... so beautiful! So next time I go to Albania for reals I will just pack a bottle of hot sauce!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Afghanistan: Afghan Pelau & Ashaks

I took two weeks to get through the recipes from Afghanistan. Their were too many to chose from! First ever recipe to come to fruition was Afghan Pelau. I did not photograph this event as it was a very busy day and I wasn't resolved to record our culinary travels at this point. Basically, this was a dish served in a 9x13 ceramic casserole dish with lamb shanks underneath a full layer of rice. Everything got a healthy dose of butter, onions and slow, slow cooking. 2 1/2 hours of effort and watching over this delectable dish was worth it! And I even got some surprise visitors to share in the glorious moment with me. The most tender lamb, and most succulent rice I have ever had to date. I was so impressed with myself and satisfied! Served this with a side salad with a little feta cheese and coarsely chopped walnuts over spring green. Perfect meal! ***** (that's five stars) 

The following Sunday I tried another recipe from Afghanistan: Ashaks
The ashaks in their final presentation... and my husband eagerly anticipating!
This was an phenomenal dish! It took me a whole 3 hours of active cooking time. This was the first time ever making my own pasta... and it was an awesome and rewarding. I wish I had taken a few photos of the process because it was so involved yet simple and straightforward. This was another dish served in a casserole. However I had to break out my largest dish... a 12x17 Pyrex cooking pan. The basic composition was a layer of cream sauce, a layer of leek stuffed ravioli's another layer of cream sauce and then a layer of a beef sauce with a final sprinkling of mint. Absolutely incredible! *****

Friday, January 17, 2014

A gift given, a seed planted...

Myself and Silas, August 2013

Silas helping with his birthday cupcakes August 2013... seven!
Silas is my oldest child. He is a sweet hearted, loyal, literary kind of guy. This past November he went out to spend some quality time with his Dad at the local used bookstore. While they were there he got to thinking he would like to bring a present home to his sweet ol' Mama. And I was so, so tickled that he did! He chose well. 

Silas has learned from an early age (probably with a few nudges of help and explanation) that mom spends a lot of time in the kitchen because she loves him. And that every warm dinner on the table is an expression of that love. We have used this understanding in his favor and have tried to expose him to many kind of foods and flavors so that he will live a healthy, happy life full of a variety of fresh foods. I'm not sure if he knew fully what he was getting himself into... but probably he was thinking of how much he likes my Chicken Curry in Yogurt Sauce... or perhaps his soft spot for fresh Garlic Na'an steaming from the oven was wafting through his mind. Whatever the case, he not only bought me this cookbook as a present... he expressed upon giving it his wild enthusiasm for trying out some new recipes from far off places. This made my heart grow a few sizes for two reasons. 1) My seven year old has enough grasp of the world and culture to know that there is soooo much that he doesn't know and he has a hungery curiosity. 2) He has absolute, never-questioned-it-for-a-second faith that I can successfully make these dishes and that they will be delicious.


So after he gives me the book the holiday wave crashed upon the social calendar and throws a curve ball through my regularly scheduled programming in the kitchen. Silas doesn't loose heart though. He asked me very, very sweetly about once a week or so when was I planning on trying out a dinner from that new cookbook he gave me? I was a little intimidated from the strangeness and exotic nature of many of the recipes I was seeing.... the hours and hours involved in the crafting of these foods that I have no idea how they should be in their ideal forms. Not the mention the nagging idea that perhaps my family of young children would turn their sweet little noses up at my efforts and food and effort would go to waste! But eventually the new year came around... and since 2014 just feels so full of possibility and promise... I went for it. I have resolved to 'travel' around the world on a 'magic table ride'. Every Sunday afternoon I will be spending hours in the kitchen listening to the music from the country being visited. I will google up information and at least read the Wikipedia article if not more... and find some pictures to show the kids the general topography, geographical location, traditional dress and a few fun facts about the nation being visited. 

And, if Simon and Shuster respond to my request in a positive manner, I will also share the recipes here with you! Until such a time as I hear back from them, out of respect to the authors intellectual effort, I will only give partial notes to my very favorites dishes and of course... pictures!