Saturday, December 19, 2009

No-Knead Bread??

So by now you must have heard somewhere about no-knead bread.  Unlike traditional bread, in stead of kneading it, you just let time do the work.  It's a great concept and I keep wanting to give it a try but something keeps stopping me.  And now I realize what it is: TIME!! It takes too much time! I also don't have instant yeast but I have a whole truckload of regular yeast--I don't want to buy yeast just to make this bread and I don't have the time to figure out how to substitute regular active dry yeast. Furthermore, I don't actually knead my bread.  My Kitchenaid stand mixer does!  Eight minutes in there on the lowest setting and voila! Perfectly kneaded bread that passes the windowpane test.  But the no-knead method is a great method to master especially in the event that we no longer have consistent electricity.  I am determined to try the no-knead recipe one day but today is not that day.  I'm so comfortable making bread the old way that I just can't seem to bring myself to try it.  Not to mention that the effort it takes to make bread keeps from eating it all willy-nilly. 

My current batch of bread is in the oven rising right now. I'm a little worried about the activity of my yeast as my bread seems to be rising a bit more slowly than usual. Well, it could be the yeast or the fact that it's colder. Anyway, here's my recipe for simple, filling, whole grain bread again:

Tall Sandwich Bread
1 1/4 c warm water (105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 T oil
3T sweetener of your choice (I use sorghum)
1 t salt
1 c white flour (I use King Arthur unbleached all-purpose)
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour)
1/2 c gluten
1 1/2 t dry active yeast
To this I add: 2-4 T ground flax seed

Mix with a bread hook in the Kitchenaid on Speed 1 for 8 minutes or until gluten is well developed. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Turn dough to coat with oil. Let rise till doubled (about 1 hour) in a warm. draft-less place (I place a bowl of hot water in my oven and cover with a damp towel). Punch the dough down, transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle about 1/2" thick. Tightly roll the dough as if making cinnamon rolls, tuck the end under and pinch closed. Transfer to lightly oiled bread pan. Let rise again. Bake for 40 min at 350 F. Transfer freshly baked bread to cooling rack (remove from pan).
I usually double this recipe so I get two loaves:  one to freeze and one to refrigerate.  Here's the recipe for the original no-knead bread.  Anyone have any tips for this type of bread?  Please share!

Edited 12/21/09
  1. It's not my yeast that's the problem.  The oven is 68 degrees according to my thermometer which means it's too cold in there for the bread to rise properly.  I sat my dough covered with a damp cloth on the heater and in about 45 minutes, it was totally risen and ready to be baked.
  2. One slice of this bread is 3 Weight Watcher's points--a lot in a way but it's a very wholesome and filling bread
  3. I figured out that my issues with pictures and things in Blogger had very nothing to do with my Mac bu rather with Safari, which is the browser I was using.  I downloaded Mozilla Firefox and it works perfectly. 

Photo Credit:  "No Knead Bread" by Cbruno on

Friday, December 18, 2009

I started Weight Watchers!

I signed up yesterday but today I've really been trying to figure things out.  Initially, I thought I'd go for the online only program but I think I will also go to meetings at least for the first few months.  So many folks have had positive things to say about the program and since I'm very ready to drop the weight, I'm excited to really get into it.

Today, I had 28 points to use.  I entered all the food I ate (and will eat today) and ended up with 32.5 points which means I went over.  I entered all the food I will eat tomorrow and have 2.5 points left over if I stick to it.  I think it's really helpful for me to think about everything I put in my mouth.  Today, I was about to polish off the last of the kids' lunch and I immediately thought, "How many points would this be?" and since I a) didn't want to be bothered looking up the points and b) knew I was over already, I passed.  Accountability, for me, is good.

I will say though, that it feels a little limiting but apparently, thats what I need.  I am really surprised at how much extra stuff I put in my mouth that's not a meal but since it's there, I put it in my mouth.  I'm looking forward to when I would have totally changed how I eat.

My current weight is 158 pounds.  My ultimate goal is to reach and maintain 130 pounds.  Right now, that's kind of lofty so my first goal is to go down to 150.1 pounds.

Luckily, my tea is only 1 point.  Since it's so cold, I've been having 2 to 3 cups a day.  That my be where tomorrow's leftover points go.

So I've started to work on one of 2010 goals already.  I think that's a good sign.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Voluntary Frugality vs. Necessary Frugality

This season is one in which everyone thinks a lot about money.  I think even more so this year when the country is in the midst of a terrible recession (or depression by some accounts).  You hear the word "frugal" tossed around a lot too.  "This will be a frugal Christmas" and it sort of implies that this will be a Christmas where everyone will have to deal with having less because the money simply isn't there.  It's a total misunderstanding of what frugal means.

Frugality simply means doing more with less.  It doesn't necessarily mean doing more with less because you have less.  In fact, you could be a billionaire and still embrace the ideal of frugality.  It doesn't mean being cheap either.  A frugal person would rather buy good quality merchandise, would rather put out the money than spend (or rather waste) money on something that is subpar.  Frugal people generally learn that you can find good quality merchandise second hand often for the same price as brand new, lesser quality stuff especially if you know where and when to look.

I think the confusion comes in when we start to look at voluntary versus necessary frugality.  Is "necessary frugality" an oxymoron of sorts?   If you need to be frugal, can it really be called frugal at all?   I think so but it brings up some interesting issues.

I am frugal by nature.  I don't like spending money when I don't have to.  I like to save up my money so that when I need it, it's there for me.  I like to save up my money so that I can buy good stuff because I don't really enjoy shopping.  But since the hubby is the sole breadwinner, being frugal, even though it's natural to me and I enjoy it generally, it's also a necessity.   We just couldn't swing this lifestyle if we spent money all willy-nilly.

What happens when frugality is a necessity though, is that sometimes it feels like a burden--no matter how innately you like to be diligent with your money.  You're holding on to your dollars and cents trying to make the wisest decision with your money.  You sometimes agonize over the best ways to make the money go farthest and you ruthlessly sort out your needs and your wants.  But then sometimes the line between needs and wants starts to get a little blurry.  This is when it gets difficult.  This is when it starts to feel like a burden, an annoyance and not a tried-and-true means to an end.  Of course, your financial goals are paramount in your mind but the goal is lofty and what you're wanting/needing now is so small (or not) in comparison.  You want to maybe throw caution to the wind (for a minute) and just get it already or do it already and have that satisfaction.  After all, there's only one life to live right?  Right.

Frugality, in general, is not about denying yourself simple pleasures in life.  But when frugality is driven by necessity, there's a lot less leeway in how much or which of these simple pleasures you can allow yourself because there's a lot more to lose.  And no matter how you look at it, sometimes you feel a little . . . annoyed?  Frustrated?  Exasperated?

Frugality, to me, is a discipline.  I know not everyone finds discipline enjoyable but I really do.  Sometimes people say I'm rigid and I know I can be but there's something comforting to me about being in control and not letting something else control me.  That's what being frugal means to me.  It means controlling my money so that my money doesn't control me.  Somedays, despite the frugality or maybe because of it, I will admit, it feels like money is running the show.  It dictates what I can and cannot do.

Still,  I kind of compare it to how a marathon runner approaches her race.  She knows that she has to eat and train a certain way to achieve the goal.  Now, that sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving may be really tempting but discipline dictates that she stay away.  But if that pie would give her great joy and pleasure, I don't think it a sin if she has a small slice.  Discipline says she stops there, though.  I may be way off with my comparison (marathon runners, feel free to chime in) but what I'm learning with frugality is that I  have to have some built in wiggle-room to my discipline so that I don't feel imprisoned or trapped by it.  So that I'm not rigid.

When I start to feel that way confined, I give myself one of those small things I've been wanting, realizing that it won't derail the whole frugality train.  One small thing crossed off a long list of needs and wants goes a long way to helping me re-focus on my financial goals while bolstering my spirits.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The "Secret" Ingredient is getting too pricey!

One of the first things you learn when cooking vegetarian foods is that it's important to find ways to infuse the food with flavor.  You don't have the fats and flavors from meat/fish to rely on so you have to find that elsewhere.  Perhaps the most important way is through fresh and interesting ingredients including spices.  Another important way is through vegetable broth.

Now, making vegetable broth is not that hard and it's what I used to do when I first became vegetarian.  I would make a whole pot of it and freeze it and use it in portions.  But because I was only feeding one person (myself) I found that I wasted a lot of it and it was taking up a lot of space in my freezer.

Growing up, my mom had always used Maggi cubes to enhance the flavor of her food and so I went off in search of a vegan version of the bouillon cube.  I found what I was looking for at the health food store and was happy to use them until I realized a key ingredient found in both Maggi and health food store bouillon cubes is derived from MSG (that's yeast extract).  There's really one bouillon I've found that doesn't contain the ingredient and it's actually a vegetable broth powder by Vogue Cuisine.  There are other makers of vegetable broth powders but I like Vogue Cuisine's the best in terms of taste and the others still have the yeast extract.  I have only been able to find Vogue Cuisine's vegetable broth powder at two health food stores, one which is close by rather expensive (so I can't buy anything else there--I have to go specifically for the broth powder) and the other a bit further in the city (although I can do all my grocery shopping there).  I have been opting to buy it at the closer store.  This additive was worth it and I was willing to pay the $4.50 for the 4 ounce jar.  Well, today I went to buy it and they were charging $5.15 for the 4 ounce jar!  I laughed out loud shaking my head.  It's one teaspoon of broth powder for ever cup of liquid.   Today's split pea soup had about 14 cups of water--so it would need almost 6 tablespoons of vegetable broth powder!  That's making what should be a relatively cheap soup much more expensive.  I still ended up buying four jars with the clear understanding that I have to do something different--either suck it up and drive to the city and get it or . . . try this recipe for vegan chicken-style broth powder or this variation.  I can get nutritional yeast pretty inexpensively from the bulk bins at whole foods so this might be worth a try.  If I had a deep freezer, I would really just prefer to go back to making the broth from scratch.  It's so simple!  But then again, I like the idea of freezing the broth in in ice cube trays--that would reduce a lot of waste.  I will try that too.  But, oh, the broth powder was so . . . easy.  (((sigh)))

Are there any other inexpensive flavor enhancement tricks that I'm missing?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Power to the Peaceful Yoga

This is the yoga DVD I did today.  I wish I had read the reviews a little more thoroughly. While I'm not a rank beginner, I wouldn't classify myself as intermediate yet.  Usually, that's not too big an issue because yoga instructors on the DVDs will offer and/or demonstrate modifications to the advanced poses.  Not so in this DVD.  At first, it seemed there were some modifications as a nod to folks who are not as advanced.  And then the instructors completely forgot about beginners.  "Next pose, head stand."  They're in headstand for almost all the breaths before one of the instructors says that if you can't do it, lean against a door.  And if you can't get into the pose leaning against a door?  Just sit there and watch them do it!!  There was also very little in the way of detailed instructions as to what your body should be doing/feeling like in each pose which made me have to stop what I was doing and really get close to the computer to see exactly what they were doing. And then many times realizing there was no way I was going to get my body to do that--at least not today or anytime in the near future. :)

Anyway, I liked the DVD because it introduced me to some new poses after doing some real heat-building preliminary poses (sun salutations--fast).  I wished for a little bit more or at least (like Baron Baptiste does in Trainer's Edge Yoga) re-building the heat a bit after you've been doing more stationary poses.  I actually liked the music and didn't find it distracting.  The instructors counted breaths which helped me keep my mind focused on breathing.

The only thing I really took issue with was Sharon Gannon pushing vegetarianism and veganism.  I get it.  Some folks feel the way the eat is activism and is spiritual and can change the world and all that.  It's important to Ms. Gannon, I get that.  [I know that a dietary change including no animal products has changed folks' lives. Mine?  I think I complicated things for the worst.  I eat tofu?  Takes forever to digest sometimes with  massive amounts of gas. I eat a piece of salmon, by dinner, I'm completely empty--literally.]  Anyway, say it once and drop it.  Instead, she mentioned it once.  And then really pushed it a second time which was annoying.  I just wish folks, especially those traveling alternate paths from the dominant practices, would let up on certain things at times and give others space to do what makes them feel best/better.

I didn't mind the other philosophical speak that the instructors shared throughout the workout because I actually agreed with a lot of it. Much of what they said was in line with my own world view.  I really liked that the instructors on this video made such an effort to connect the practice of yoga in a meaningful way to our everyday living.

I skipped the mantra part in the beginning.  I need to look up the meaning before I jump right in to chanting it.  My relaxation/savasana was cut short by Z2 screaming.

I will probably look to do this DVD again in a few years when I am more advanced.  It's very different from others I have done and as much as I could, I enjoyed it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Broad Musical Palate

Since I grew up in a very conservative Christian household, we were not allowed to listen to secular music.  In fact, the radio was usually tuned to Family Radio which was unexciting to say the least.  So for the first thirteen years of my life, I had no idea what was going on in music.  Around this time, though, my father joined Columbia House and we finally got some interesting (though unwanted) music like Baroque Duet by Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis (Eternal Source of Light was one of my favorites but I actually learned most of the album in Italian), a Ray Charles "Best of" double CD, a Motown compilation CD, the soundtrack to The Phantom of the Opera.  These CDs kind of were just around but my parents didn't listen to them and I'm sure they wouldn't have approved.  (In fact, I think I got in trouble one time when my dad found one opened that he didn't open.)  I played them constantly and enjoyed them whenever I could--when my parents were out or busy.  I entertained dreams of becoming an opera singer and was told by a few folks that I was pretty good.

Anyway, I was so woefully removed from popular music for so much of my life, I feel like I've been playing catch-up ever since.  Since I hang out with folks who are usually 10 years older than me, they usually try to clown me about not knowing obviously popular songs--that I was just a thought when the song was hot.  Sometimes it's true.   Sometimes it's not.  Sometimes I can't say for sure.  Did I simply miss it because I was under a parental rock it or did it really come out before my time?

I've been doing a good job of catch up I think.  It started with my Walkman that I got freshman year of high school when I started to take the bus by myself.  My little Aiwa Walkman gave me a chance to listen to music privately (it definitely didn't cost as much as the one I linked to).  I began listening to Hot 97 and pretty soon, I knew all the currently popular songs.  But then I started to feel guilty thinking that Christian people should listen to music that glorifies God or at least music that didn't talk about sinful things like sex.  So I stopped listening to the radio.  My school friend was able to procure two tapes for me: Erykah Badu's Baduizm and Room 112, 112's second album. Around junior year, I went back to listening the radio again (starting to feel trapped by Christianity or at least my parents' version) and got hooked on Jay-Z.  I bought his albums and hid them lest my parents find out and bug out.

In college, I was all about reggae and built a pretty impressive reggae collection.  It started out with Bob Marley (of course) and it went from there.  I played this music in the house and it was the source of many, many fights between my father and I.  He would swear that he smelled marijuana in my room (but it couldn't have been).  But I loved reggae and needed it at that time in my life.  I still love reggae tremendously but I'm sometimes surprised at how much I've branched out and reached back in time with my musical choices.  I will listen to Otis Redding just as readily as Luciano or Ludacris (clean versions now because of the kids--and some tracks I have to skip altogether).  I still pop in Kathleen Battle from time to time.  I love soukous and rock to Fela (who was introduced to me by an ex-boyfriend).  To say my tastes in music are eclectic would be a spot-on observation!  I wouldn't know even know how to describe what I've got going on in I-tunes.  Almost every genre (including gospel because I loves me some Clark Sisters, Tramaine Hawkins and Fred Hammond) is represented.

What am I listening to now?  Peter, Paul and Mary.  It's not something I would have dreamed I would like so much ten years ago but I really do.

So it's been an interesting musical journey--and it's not over yet.  I still wish I could have been musical myself in some way.  I think that I might like to be a back-up singer for someone.  I wonder at times should I take up piano again--I did enjoy it.  I'm hoping to find a secular choir or singing group to join once the kids get a bit older.    I want to make sure the kids are surrounded by all kinds of music too.  I'm not going to wax poetic about the importance of music but if I can convey to them the value of music, I think I would have given them a priceless gift.

I may be a very picky eater but my musical palate right now is quite broad and ever-broadening.

Jump, Baby, Jump!!

As you know, I've been looking for ways to change my workout routine to make it more challenging.  I got a aerobic step bench on Freecycle and I've been rocking it.  I find it to be a lot of fun (i.e. learning the routines) and I really work up a sweat and get my heart going.

I was thinking to myself, "What else could I add to the mix?" and it hit me:  jumping rope.  I have a beaded jumprope that I've had since I was about 12 years old.  It's an excellent quality rope and I already have it--no money spent.  I googled jump rope exercise and discovered that they have a jump rope workout on DVD (of course--why was I surprised?).  Also turns out that it happens to be right there at my local library.  So I picked it up.  It's called RopeSport and the one I got is the Basic Video.  Now the little 15 minute introductory workout on this DVD is really a joke.  It's more stretching and breathing than really working out.  What's truly valuable about this DVD, though, is that it teaches you techniques and various jump styles as well as discusses the proper length of the rope and how you should be holding it to get the maximum benefit.   So what I did this morning instead of following the DVD was to do 30 second intervals alternating between jumping and resting.  I was trying all the different styles of jumping and learning that some are more intense/more complex than others.  One instructor on the DVD claims you can get the same benefit without a rope.  That's simply not true.  You really have to make more an effort to clear a rope.  I found that if I got tired (towards the end of 30 second interval), I would just clear the rope or not clear it at all and so I had to put that much more energy into it.  I'm hoping to work my way up to 3-4 minutes continuous jumping.  Overall, it was a fun workout I'm going to stick with.  A plus is that I felt very comfortable doing my own thing without any instruction--maybe because I jumped so much rope as a child.  It just felt natural.

So I've got my step and my jumprope.  The hubby also has this AirClimber thing I was clowning him about because it makes so much wheezing noise. But I think I may give that a try too.  The most important thing right now, I think, is to get a heart rate monitor so that whatever I'm doing, I know that I'm on point.

I still want to get P90X but I keep thinking about the money, money, money but P90X wil probably be my next step once I master step aerobics, jumping rope and air climbing.  :) All that combined with Weight Watchers, i.e. re-figuring how I eat should help me reach my 2010 fitness goals, which I will be posting  on my sidebar soon.
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