Three Words- 2013

February 26, 2013

For the past few years, I’ve chosen three words on which I want to focus.  I’ve had some trouble narrowing and choosing my words this year.  There’s so much that I want to do and be.  Areas where I want to leave space.  Areas where I want to grow and change.  Areas where I want to work a bit harder or focus a bit more intensely.  Having to choose just three words was more difficult this year than it has been in previous years.  We’ll see how it goes. But, this year, I’m choosing margin, simplicity and community.

Margin

Margin was one of my goals last year.  While I did ok with it, I feel like I need to focus on it again this year.

Physical Margin

I want to continue to protect my sleep.   I’m working through a soft tissue shoulder injury from swimming.  I need to protect my time in order to do my exercises daily.  In the end, I want to be back in the pool and working out with my masters group.  While I’m hoping to be able to do all four strokes again, I may have to kiss butterfly goodbye.  Exercise is an investment in my mental wellbeing and future health.  Whether it’s walking or swimming,  I need to be moving at least five days a week.

Relational Margin

I want to invest in my relationships with Charlie and my children foremost, then in extended family and friends.  In order to do that, I need to not let my iPhone or computer suck my time away.  Charlie and I need regular dates in order to sow into our marriage.

Financial Margin

I want to continue to save money and to live frugally.  Gotta love Dave Ramsey.  In 2013, we want to move forward in his plan to financial freedom.

Spiritual Margin

I want to give my spiritual growth time and energy.  I want to spend regular time reading the Bible and praying.  I want to make myself accountable to other women in my faith community.  

Simplicity

If you follow my blog, you already know that we’ve been clearing out our house.  I’m loving the way our space feels.  I want to continue to pursue simplicity in our environment at home.  For us, this means not owning too much stuff.  It also means maintaining what we do own so that our home runs smoothly.  We’re pursuing a rhythm of cleaning our house so that we stay on top of it and don’t get overwhelmed by it.  We’re pursuing a rhythm of giving each of the children 15-20 minutes of our time each week dedicated to keeping their rooms de-cluttered and picked up.  We’re pursuing simple food.  Simple isn’t always easy.  The article on junk food from the New York Times last week reminded me how much I want our family to eat fresh, whole foods.  As you know, this takes time and effort.  I want to spend time and money here so that the way we eat matches with what we value.  Over the last few years, we’ve lost sight of pursuing fresh, whole, healthy food as we’ve been getting our company started.  Time to get back on the horse.

Community

Frankly, I stink at community.  It’s always seemed elusive to me.  I want to be good at it.  I want to pursue it.  I have friends who are great at it and who talk about it a lot.  But, I’m not good at it, and I want to be.  So, I want to sow into community this year.  Charlie and I are great with sitting at home and reading a book in our spare time.  Having two strong introverts leading our household makes it easy to just stay at home.  Which works just fine until it’s not fine.  Until we’re lonely.  Until we don’t have the support system that we need to live the lives we want to live.  So, this year, I’m not going to focus on getting community.  I’m going to focus on being the community I want.  I want to be the lady who takes people dinner when they’re having a hard time.  I want to regularly have people in our home for meals.  I want to have kids playing at our house.  Even if the noise bothers me.  I want to sow community in my faith community.  So, I’m looking for opportunities.  I want to be ready to say yes when I see an opportunity to sow community.  It completely goes against my introversion, but I want to change in this area, and I’m ready to lean into my discomfort and my desire to just go read a book.

What about you?  What are you working on in 2013?

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Pizza

May 31, 2011

I wanted to share one of our family staples with you. We make pizza a couple of times each month, if not more.

Dough

If you have a kitchen aide mixer with a dough hook, pizza dough is very simple to make. I make it so frequently that I don’t use a cook book. Here’s the recipe:

Fill a measuring cup with 2 cups of warm water. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of yeast. Add this to your mixing bowl and add a good dose of olive oil (2-3 tablespoons or maybe a bit more). Add about 1 teaspoon salt. Attach the dough hook, and turn the mixer on. Begin adding flour. I use whole wheat flour, but I sometimes add a bit of white flour, too. Anyway, add flour until the dough comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. It should feel sort of like a baby’s bottom. That’s really the best way I know how to describe it. Not too firm, but definitely not sticky. I’ll estimate that it will take about five cups. Once the dough comes together, lift it out of the bowl. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the bowl. Rub the dough in the olive oil and use it to coat the bowl. The oil coating the dough will keep it from drying out, and it will also prevent the dough from sticking to the bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it rise in a warm place until it’s roughly doubled (maybe an hour?).

If my recipe is too loose for you, click here to get a pizza dough recipe from epicurious. You can also use Trader Joe’s pizza dough. If you are on a gluten-free diet, Namaste makes a good pizza crust.

Here’s the pizza dough in the bowl after letting it rise for an hour:

If you’re using a pizza stone, heat the oven to 500 degrees.

We use a pizza stone, and we love it. I’m going to share our process using a pizza stone. But, you could definitely build the pizzas on a cookie sheet. You’ll likely need to lower the temperature a bit if you’re using a cookie sheet so that the bottom doesn’t burn before the rest of the pizza is cooked.

I’ve adopted Charlie’s method of rolling out pizza crust. Use a large cutting board. Lay down a piece of parchment. Plop a piece of pizza dough on the parchment, then cover the dough with another piece of parchment. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough. We’ve been making thin crust pizza, and this works very well. After you get the dough rolled out, remove the top layer of parchment. Using parchment on the bottom of the crust makes scooting the pizza into the oven very easy. Just leave the bottom layer of parchment on to cook the pizza.

You can build the pizza either on a cutting board or on a pizza peel. Our pizza peel was a splurge a couple of years ago, but we have gotten a ton of use out of it.

Toppings

olive oil
garlic or garlic salt
Trader Joe’s pizza sauce
pepperoni
mozzarella
blue cheese
goat cheese
anchovies
mushrooms
peppers
kalamata olives
potatoes (very thinly sliced)

In case you don’t know how to build a pizza, our general formula is to put down a layer of sauce or olive oil and garlic salt. Add the toppings, with the cheese going on last. The only exception is that if you’re using pepperoni, add the pepperoni last. This way, it gets nice and crispy on top of the pizza. Also, try to make sure that the toppings go to the edges of the pizza.

Our family’s favorite combinations include:

pizza sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives and mozzarella
olive oil, thinly sliced garlic, anchovies and mozzarella (if you like garlic and anchovies, this is decadent!)
potato with blue cheese, mozzarella and rosemary

We usually make several smallish pizzas so that everyone has their pick of pizza. The children enjoy building their own pizzas.

This pizza is ready to slide on to the pizza stone.

After you have your pizza built, slide it onto the hot stone using the peel. Set the timer for 8 minutes. Sometimes it takes longer, but thin crust pizza cooks fairly quickly. You can count on it taking 8 to 10 minutes.

This is a meal that we’ve enjoyed making with company. People usually enjoy the process. But, with pizza, cooking is an event. Your friends will need to be game for rolling their sleeves up and pitching in. Otherwise, you’ll be distracted with cooking instead of enjoying your friends. But, if your friends are ready to help, it’s a fun shared activity.

Any other pizza chefs or connoisseurs out there? What’s your favorite combo? As always, I’m happy to answer questions if you have them.

The No Frills Kitchen

January 29, 2011

Loved this article on the no-frills kitchen in the New York Times by Mark Bittman.  Click here if you want to read it.  It flies in the face of the Wolf stove that still has the plastic in it because it’s never been used.  A Sub Zero fridge and a Viking stove will not actually make you a better cook.  I love Bittman’s  no-nonsense approach to getting an adequate kitchen set up and then using it.

More on Soup Night

November 6, 2010

I told you a bit about Soup Night a while back. But, I wanted to share a few more ideas that might make Soup Night more manageable.

When we lived at L’Abri, all meals were eaten in community. Their kitchens were set up for this. I’ve borrowed some ideas from L’Abri.

You can see the two pictures above of the L’Abri student kitchen. It’s small and cozy- and very, very efficient. Out of this small kitchen, about 20+ students are fed at least one meal on most days. Most of the students eat around the table in the kitchen, and there is another table just outside the kitchen where the rest of the people eat. L’Abri is on a tight budget. There are lots of meals centered around legumes and pasta. Lots of soup. Meat is a treat. But, there’s always plenty for everyone to have a decent meal. Charlie and I loved this- and we wanted to bring the L’Abri meal philosophy home with us.

So, I’ve adapted some of the L’Abri ideas to make feeding a crowd easier.

We took the doors off our cabinet where the dishes were stored. This allows people to get their own dishes. Charlie installed cup hooks underneath the cabinet so that the kids could get their own cups. In our house, the children drink everything from these small cups. They are short and squatty- so they don’t tip over easily. For Soup Night, I take my wooden silverware holder out of the drawer and place it on the counter with a stack of cloth napkins, and I’m almost done. Put out some wine glasses and fill a pitcher of water. I have a white hotel table cloth that I use for everything from Thanksgiving dinner to Soup Nights. It’s indestructible. I don’t fuss about red wine spills. When you go to someone’s house, do you really care if they have a spot on their table cloth?

I think that it’s really important to internalize that this is not entertaining. It’s hospitality. All I do to prep the house is make sure that the bathroom is reasonably clean. It’s about sharing a meal with neighbors. Let your kids’ messy rooms go. After the kids play in their rooms, they will be messy any way.

Another thing that I’ve learned is that you need to have a Plan B ready. One time, I was making this beautiful tortilla soup. I had bought, roasted and peeled all these beautiful chilis and make this beautiful sauce with pastured chicken stock. When I tasted it, the soup was blazing hot. I was sputtering- and I’m not a wimp with hot foods. Truly, it was inedible. So, I ran to Trader Joe’s and picked up all the stuff for a taco bar. Grilled some chicken; warmed up some canned black beans and tortillas- the rest was ready in about 20 minutes. Yesterday, I had four realtors at my house. It was either make soup and fly around like a witch with my kids, or outsource. I got home from the park about 15 minutes before everyone arrived and ordered pizza. I think that having a Plan B at the ready is important.

I know that others are doing this. My good friends John and Tommi (who’ve also spent time at L’Abri) do a Soup Night up in Portland. I’d love to hear what questions or suggestions people have.

Yogurt

September 20, 2010

Yogurt is so easy to make. We’re on a diet that requires that we use yogurt that’s been cultured for way longer than what you can get in the store. Thus, I’m making it about once a week right now.

What you need:

Mason jars
Milk
A bit of yogurt from the store with live active cultures. I use Strauss.

Stirring frequently, heat the milk to 180 degrees.

Still stirring frequently, bring the temperature down to 110 degrees (or a bit less). All the stirring helps to prevent a skin from forming on top of the milk.

Mix the yogurt (roughly 2 T to 1/4 c per quart) into your milk. Make sure that you get the yogurt thoroughly incorporated into the milk. I use a whisk, but very gently. If you use the whisk vigorously, you’ll have a lot of foam on top of the yogurt. Pour into sterilized jars, and secure sterilized lids . Keep at around 90-100 degrees for at least eight hours. I ferment mine in my dehydrator for about 24 hours. From what I understand, you can also use a gas oven. When the oven is off, the pilot light keeps the oven warm enough for culturing yogurt. Store in fridge.

You have to heat the milk to 180 to kill any bacteria in the milk. Because you’ll be leaving the milk at room temperature, you’ll be encouraging bacteria to grow- so you’ll want to make sure that you’re encouraging only good bacteria to grow. This is also why you need to sterilize your mason jars and lids before you pour the milk in.

Now the good part. My favorite ways to eat yogurt are:

– Add honey. Pour honey yogurt over fruit and nuts for a yummy, healthy breakfast. I eat this a lot at night as a dessert.

– Drain yogurt in coffee filters or a tea towel set inside a strainer to make thick greek yogurt. I use the left over whey in fermenting. Any way, use the drained yogurt with some seeded and chopped cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice and a bit of salt to make a great greek dip. I make this whenever I make lamb burgers. So, so good.

Well, there are a lot of options when life hands you apples. Galette, sauce, pie, crumble, cobbler, cake- really, you can’t go wrong. This time, we made apple sauce.

A big thank you to my neighbor Julien, who started this whole adventure. His tree is so heavy with fruit right now that he called us to see if we would be interested in coming to pick apples. Yes! Absolutely!

The next day, we were planning to have my friends Leanne and Sarah over with their girls to play. I thought that it would be fun to make apple sauce. It’s so, so simple.

First, cut the apples into chunks. Any bad spots go into the compost. I leave the seeds, stems and skins on.

Next, throw the apples into a big pot on medium heat. You can use apple juice or water to help the apples begin to steam- then, they’ll begin to release their own juice to cook in.

Continue cooking on medium to low heat until the apples are very soft (actually, I was going to say mooshy- which is a way better word than soft).

Once the apples are cooked, use a food mill to remove the skins and seeds.

And here’s the finished product:

You can add cinnamon if you want. Also, with early apples like these, the sauce is a bit tart. More apple juice while cooking would have sweetened it up a bit. But, adding a little honey also works.

It’s a fun process and a yummy product. So much more fun to make when you have friends to help you with the work- and the eating!

Food Forward

July 26, 2010

Check out this new show called Food Forward. They’re still trying to get funding to air the first show. The clip features Joe Morris, the man I’ve been buying my beef from for the last three years. Shows people who are doing very, very cool things in the sustainable food movement.