Monthly Archives: January 2010

Soft Pretzels

For everyone who’s been asking here is the pretzel recipe! Post a comment or contact me any other way to let me know if you need a larger yield or if you don’t have a bread machine and need help figuring out kneading and rising instructions. I make all my breads in a machine but I can help you figure out the instructions for kneading by hand. If you use this recipe please let me know what you think, what challenges you may have faced or how you tinkered to improve it. yield: 8 soft pretzels Ingredients: 3/4 c. water 80-90 degrees 1 1/2 t. salt 2 1/2 t. brown sugar, firmly packed 2 c. + 6 T. bread flour 2 t. yeast 2 c. water 2 T. baking soda Directions: Place the 3/4 c. water, salt, brown sugar, bread flour, and yeast (do not add the second amount of water or the baking soda) in the bread machine (your kneading paddle should already be in!). Choose the Dough/Pizza Dough cycle (approx. 1 hr. 15 min.) and the small or 1 lb. dough size. Press start. When the cycle is completed, remove the dough and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a thin rope and twist into a pretzel shape.* Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover with plastic, and let rest for about 20-30 minutes. Place 2 inches of water in the widest, shallowest saute pan you have and bring it to a boil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the 2 cups of water and baking soda in a small bowl, stir, and reserve. When the pretzels are rested (they usually smile and yawn ūüôā and the water is boiling, carefully slide the pretzels into the water one at a time (I like a flexible spatula for this) flipping each after about 1 1/2 minutes. Boil for 3 minutes total. Allow to drain on a wire cooling rack. Dip each pretzel into the stirred baking soda solution and place back on parchment lined baking sheet (I like to sprinkle a little salt on them but don’t dip them in salt, that’s overkill as I learned the hard way!). Bake in the oven until golden brown, approx. 15-20 minutes. When finished, transfer to wire cooling rack. *Note: The recipe instructs you to use a floured surface but I found that they were hard to roll out that way. I liked them a little sticky and had to add water to roll them out. Also, the pretzel shape I used was simple but they kept falling apart. Next time I would add a couple of twists in the center. I noticed that shape later at a pretzel stand and I think it would solve the problem of the “tails” coming unstuck from the body.

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Greek Lemon Chicken Soup (Avgolemono)

A wonderful creamy lemon soup that is an ideal comfort food. This is a great use of leftover chicken and is pretty quick to make. Be careful to follow directions carefully when you add the eggs to avoid curdling. The creaminess comes from the eggs, making this a healthy alternative to heavy cream-based soups. Vegetarians can eliminate the chicken and use vegetable broth, while gluten free folks can use rice (cook for 20 minutes with the lid on) instead of orzo.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups or so cooked chicken (I like to shred it)
  • 5 or 6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable if you are a veggie)
  • 3 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 T. or so butter or olive oil
  • about 1 cup diced onion
  • about 2 or 3 garlic cloves
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • a generous splash of white wine, I guess about a cup. (hard to over-pour this!)
  • 1 cup orzo (or rice)

Directions:

In a soup pot, melt butter or olive oil over medium heat to saute onions and garlic. As they are sauteing, bring the eggs to room temperature by setting them in a dish of ¬†warm water. After about 10 minutes, when the onions are soft and translucent, pour in wine and simmer for a few minutes. Add chicken broth, orzo, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 10-12 minutes or until orzo is cooked. Meanwhile, juice your lemons (if you haven’t already) and in a large bowl whisk the eggs and lemon juice together until frothy. Remove the soup from the burner. Slowly add about 2 cups of hot broth to the egg/lemon mixture,¬†whisking constantly so you don’t curdle the egg. This is why bringing the egg to room temperature first is important. Slowly add the egg/lemon/broth mixture back into the soup, stirring constantly. I like to whisk in a quick tight circle in the center of the pot, thereby causing a ripple effect and carefully incorporating with no curdling. The keys to not curdling the egg are; bringing to room temperature, mixing hot broth in slowly, and taking the soup off the burner before mixing in the egg. The egg will cook to a safe temperature between being mixed with broth and being incorporated back into the soup. Serve immediately.

Let Something Go

Today two big things happened. I recognized that I needed help with the kids and I realized that my universe would not explode if my bra and underwear didn’t match.

These are two seemingly unrelated epiphanies but let me explain. I have been steadily losing my patience with Sophia over the last few days. As she was in the middle of yet another screaming tantrum at 7 AM I yelled, “SHUT UP!”.

Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I admitted it and I’m not proud of it, but I did it. Instead of powering through the day feeling guilty and trying to keep my temper under control, I called our babysitter and went to my chiropractic appointment alone. With no kids. By myself. My friends who know me well know that this is unheard of. I have a hard time admitting that I need help, and this case was no exception. It was tough. I tried to tell myself that I could handle it, that calling a sitter with no solid, practical reason was a needless extravagance, and that if I can’t deal with my kids I have no right to be a mother.

After my appointment I wasn’t ready to go home. I decided to stop at the mall for some underwear and went in search of the matches to my bras. I was secretly wishing I could wear some of the crazy colors I saw in the bargain bin. But they wouldn’t match. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to just look. Then it hit me – I don’t HAVE to match. I can wear the crazy stuff if I want to (and it was on sale which of course appealed to my practical side)!

Letting go is exceptionally hard for competitive spirits who strive to be the best parents they can. Today I let go of two things – my inclination to act like Super Mom and my tight grip on boring symmetry. It wasn’t easy; I did argue with myself about the sitter and I dug through the bargain bras to try to find just one that might match.

Take a minute for self-reflection. Is there something you can let go of? Is there something that might make you happy if you just allowed yourself permission? Do it.

Love,

Danielle

Wasted Opportunity

Hi, Friends.

I’ve been having trouble finding inspiration lately so I guess I’ll just share a thought and an image. And then two more thoughts.

I saw something today that made me think long and hard about what opportunities I don’t see or take advantage of. Do I always try to squeeze some sort of exercise into my day? Not lately with this weather! Do I eat a lot of vegetables? I keep meaning to do it. Do I stop what I’m doing to play with the kids, even if it means dinner will be late or the laundry will go unfolded for a few more hours? Not often enough. So many wasted opportunities and I don’t even see them! I have decided to keep my eyes open and slow my brain down. I am going to try looking at things not as chores or inconveniences but as opportunities. So, friends, join me and think of things that will make you healthier and happier and DO them.

The image – it was a very large (I guess I do mean overweight) teenaged boy riding a bicycle. The bicycle had a motor. I thought, “What if that kid didn’t have the motor? He would have to pedal! Would this be a bad thing?” And then I thought, “What a waste of perfectly good pedals!”

Go do something to make you happy.

Love,

Danielle

Make Your Mistakes

Last night at school our writing prompt was a paragraph about a big mistake we made. ¬†Well this one happened before I was married or had children but it was a good one so I’d like to share it.

My best friend and I were roommates and I was in the throes of a nasty bout of mono. Ever had it? It feels like achy cooked spaghetti. It was so bad at one point that every time I tried to stand up I would just fall over. Anyway, the phone in our room rang. I was in bed and all my roommates were at work. I answered and Em’s sister was on the line.

“Danielle, tell Em that Grandma is really sick and in the hospital. We’re not flying out there just yet but tell her to call me and I’ll update her.” It went something like that, I honestly don’t remember the particulars since I didn’t catch it all anyway. I mumbled some sort of sympathetic noise and hung up.

Now I had to go down the hall to get a scrap of paper and a pen. I rolled out of bed, crashed to the floor, and began the long, painful crawl. I had to stop a few times to rest but I made it and rested my cheek on the cool linoleum. A Post-It pad. Up there on the counter. I pulled myself up and grabbed it, also snatching a pen as I fell over. I’m not kidding, it was that bad. I scribbled a note to Em and stuck it to the wall at my eye-level (which was her knee-level), and started the crawl back to bed.

Em came home and straight into the bedroom to check on me. “Systica.”

“What?”

“SIS-TER CALLED.”

“Oh, what did she say?”

“Note inda kishen.”

“Got it, thanks!”

Just before I passed out I heard her crying as she dialed her sister’s number. I guess she eventually got it all straightened out. All I remember is that she wouldn’t speak to me for a couple days after that, and this is a girl who NEVER gets angry. What made her angry? My note. What did it say?

“You gramma died sorry.”

We laugh about it now but it took us awhile to get there! The point is, we all make mistakes and some of us make some pretty big ones. Some of us make some inexplicable ones. Guess what? Someone has always screwed up worse than you! Forge ahead with your day, my friends, and don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes.

Love,

Danielle

Ahoy, Mateys!

Those of you who know my husband are aware that he is not exactly a computer geek (sorry, Honey, but you had to know you were going to be fodder for this blog one day, the material is just too rich and plentiful!). When he created a Facebook account two weeks ago he inadvertently changed the language. I was sitting on the couch (probably chatting on Facebook) when I slowly became aware of his frustrated mutterings. I pleasantly asked, “is there something I can help you with, Honey?” Being a man who doesn’t like offers of help he surprised me when he answered, “YES! I can NOT seem to change the language back!”

“Will you let me take a look?”

His account was in pirate speak. I spat my tea out (okay, it was probably wine but I thought tea sounded better). It was asking him “what be troublin’ ye?” ¬†right below the “Cap’ns log” where he could “eavesdrop on yer mateys’ jabberin’s”. I laughed so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. Every time I navigated to another area I exploded again. I am laughing as I type this because I had to change my Facebook account to pirate speak in order to accurately quote it. Do yourself a favor – if you need a good laugh today change your Facebook account to pirate speak (go to the bottom left of the page and click on the English hyperlink. Choose English {pirate}).

I hope you have a fun and peaceful Sunday. If you get lonely send a parrot out and tell me what’s been troublin’ yer!

Love,

Daniellle

Toys For Our Tots

Good Morning!

I have been simmering for awhile and I finally got angry. With myself. I woke up brainstorming gift ideas for a birthday party we’ll be attending this afternoon. “Well, maybe I’ll do what I always do when it comes down to the ‘day of’, I’ll just run to Walmart (right up the street) or Target (a little further away) and find something cute.” But how will I know it doesn’t have heavy metals or toxic paint? I won’t. That’s the risk I take for convenient and inexpensive shopping.

You, ¬†my good friends, know that when my babies were born I was vigilant about keeping plastic and painted toys out of their mouths. I railed against unsafe plastics a couple years before the BPA scare. I was viewed by some as a crazy hippy wingnut (I now take a certain pride in that) but as the children have grown older I’ve gotten complacent. With the recent cadmium scare out of China I went through Sophia’s little jewelry box and threw almost everything away. Was anyone else as surprised as I was that Claire’s Boutique was specifically mentioned as an offender? We occasionally went to Claire’s when Sophia was feeling “fancy” and I let her pick out a trinket. Not anymore. I’m really pissed at myself.

I realized that in my complacency I was relying upon the government (bad idea) and the retailers (worse idea) to keep toxic toys away from my precious children. It comes down to this – we’re the parents. We’re the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends of our children. We are responsible for keeping them safe in all other aspects, why not in this one? From hereon out I am boycotting Chinese goods for my children.

Yes, it may get a little more expensive and less convenient but how much crap do our kids need? One well made toy can give them years more play value than 50 cheap trinkets – just ask Sophia who received from Santa a wooden changing table for her dolls (she chose this out of a crazy hippy wingnut toy catalog after Tim made the expensive mistake of telling her to pick whatever she wanted). She talked about that thing for months before Christmas and two days before the Big Day told me she wanted nothing else, just the one present. Santa could keep the rest.

I am not being an activist here and suggesting that everyone boycott China. We’re all together in this mess our economy created. I’m saying that I will use a lot more caution when choosing toys for my children and your children. The local farmers’ market has a booth with some wonderful handmade things, there are some stores like TAPS that carry high quality and reasonably priced choices, if you have the forethought there are endless natural toys and gifts available online (I can give you my favorite sites if you are interested), and don’t forget about homemade gifts.

So Zoie, I hope you like the leaves and rocks we’re collecting for your birthday present today!

Love,

Danielle

Today’s Friday!

One of the dangers of being a stay at home mom is its easy to lose track of time, like what day of the week it is, when you last showered, or when you last served something other than leftovers or refrigerator surprise. I can always tell you exactly when I last changed a poopy diaper, though! All that said, I forgot until about ten minutes ago that today is Friday. So, to all my working friends or stay at home friends who look forward to it, here it is….Happy Friday and I hope you have a fun and peace-filled weekend!

Love,

Danielle

Wine in my sippy cup?

Okay, my friends, please help me settle a debate. How many of us really believe¬†the author is a drunk-o when we read things like, “there’s a sippy cup of wine waiting for me” or “pass the wine”? And just give me a show of hands here, how many of us understand that this is written for humor’s sake and that there isn’t a whole slew of parents blogging while they’re trashed and hollering at the kids to “hurry up and open another bottle for Mommy already!”? (okay, so maybe there are some parents who do that but that’s not the point here.)

Thoughts?

Morning Haiku

Wine time is just fine

now the coffee is brewing

wine again at 5!