• perfect pita

    Finally, I’ve conquered pita. I am so proud, as in, puffed-like-a-pita proud.

    I happened upon the recipe by chance: one blogger mentioned a foodie youtuber and I clicked over and promptly fell down a rabbit hole, watching a whole bunch of his videos in one sitting (his unbridled enthusiasm kind of reminds me of Samin), one of which was all about his search for the perfect, creamy-smooth hummus. I made the hummus, and, while it was good — and some of the methods were downright brilliant (blend the unpeeled garlic with the lemon juice and then strain, toast the chickpeas with baking soda and then cook to remove the skins) — I still think the recipe needs more work (my main beefs: too much garlic, and the complicated skimming of the skins). His pita recipe, however, was amazing.

    There’s nothing fancy about the dough — yeast, olive oil, a little whole wheat — but there are several different rising stages: the dough rises, the dough balls rise, and then the rolled-out pita rises.

    And then there’s the cooking, at which point (most of) the pitas swell right up into a glorious round ball, creating that ever-illusive and highly-coveted pocket effect.

    squeeeeee!

    All that rising sounds complicated, but it’s not. Really, pita is the perfect background project while completing other kitchen tasks. In between kneading the dough and rolling it out and cooking it on the griddle, there’s plenty of time to grind coffee, chop veggies, boil some eggs, wash up the dishes, set the table, whatever.

    There’s nothing quite like a towel-lined basket filled with steaming hot, tender, gently-puffed pitas. You gotta try it.

    Seriously.

    Perfect Pita 
    Adapted from My Name Is Andong.

    ½ cup whole wheat flour
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 tablespoon sugar
    2½ teaspoons yeast
    1 cup warm water
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon salt

    In a small bowl, stir together the whole wheat, oil, sugar, yeast, and water. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.

    Measure the flour and salt into a second, larger bowl. Add the bubbly yeast mixture and stir. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead briefly. The dough will be sticky — knead quickly and try to refrain from adding too much flour. The wetter the dough, the more tender the pita. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl (the unwashed mixing bowl is fine) and cover with plastic. Let rise for one hour.

    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, divide it into eight pieces, and shape into balls. Flour the tops again and cover with a cloth. Let rest for 20 minutes.

    Roll out the pitas into thin circles, about ¼-inch thick. After you’ve rolled the first one, set the timer for 15 minutes and continue rolling out the pitas, keeping them in order according to when you rolled them out.

    When the timer dings, place a comal, or cast iron skillet, over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, begin to cook the pitas, starting with the first one that you shaped and moving through the pitas chronologically. Gently lay a pita on the pan. After about three minutes, it should be nice and bubbly — if it worked well, you’ll have one big bubble — and the underside will be a speckled golden brown. Flip and cook for another couple minutes before transferring the pita to a towel-lined basket. Fold the edges of the towel over the hot pita to keep it warm, adding more pitas as they finish.

    Serve hot, with hummus or curry, or with butter.

    Store leftover pitas in a plastic bag. To reheat, spritz both sides of the pita with water and reheat on the comal until steamy hot and pliable.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (2.27.17), Oreo, my new superpower, rise and fall, buttery brown sugar syrup and cinnamon molasses syrup, what would you say?, what I said, creamy garlic soup.

  • lunch

    Yesterday I photographed our lunches, and then when I found myself wide awake at three this morning — because the chicks that my daughter bought yesterday and then put in the downstairs guestroom that’s directly below our room were cheep-eep-eeping so loudly that they woke me up and I had to get out of bed to fetch the noise machine from where it purrs in the hallway and plug it in next to my bed, right by my head, so I could drown out the shrill peeps, but then, of couse, all that activity only served to wake me up even more — I tried to write a post to go with those lunch photos. Because if I wasn’t going to sleep, I might as well do something useful.

    But what, I thought to myself as I flopped about, tugging the covers up and then flinging them off, is there to say about lunch? Nothing really, except, I realized, I really like it. I like the eating, naturally, but I also like the word itself: lunch.

    Say it: lunch. It’s a friendly word, don’t you think? Cozy and humble, and cheery. Satisfying, too, the way it ends with such firm unch-ness. And it rhymes with other agreeable words, like munch, bunch, and crunch, all which are related to lunch: I munch and crunch my way through a bunch of lunch. See?

    But oh yes. The photos. Right.

    My husband’s lunch….

    two deviled eggs, chips and salsa, an apple and peanut butter, coffee 

    He has never been one for packing a lunch. He does it, but he hates it. Lucky for him, the older he gets, the less he eats, so there’s less to pack.

    Still, I don’t understand how he can pull off eight hours of hard physical labor on a couple eggs and an apple with peanut butter. I’d be flat on my face — doing his job, I’d be flat on my face even with a big lunch — but he says it’s enough, so whatever.

    My younger son’s lunch….

    my mom’s homemade yogurt, leftover steak, cheesy chips and salsa

    I was going to heat up leftover brown rice and curry for our lunch, but then I just didn’t feel like dealing with the inevitable fussing (the kids aren’t curry fans), and we had plenty of other leftovers. Cobbled lunches are one of my favorite things about eating at home — I feel so virtuous, emptying container after container of leftovers.

    My younger daughter’s lunch…

    ramen, with a boiled egg and some leftover corn, and crackers

    She couldn’t finish it, so my younger son ate the rest of it.

    (My older daughter was at school, so I didn’t photograph what she ate. I think she took some chips, though, and a couple granola bars. And when I went to Costco yesterday, she sent along money so I’d buy her a large pepperoni pizza that she then divided up and stuck in the freezer for her future lunches.)

    In my Sunday school class on the climate crisis, there’s a lot of talk about how reducing food waste is one of the biggest ways that we can fight climate change. (Of the dozens and dozens of ways that we can cut back on carbon emissions, guess what’s the number one way. Transportation? Netzero building? Recycling? Walkable cities? Nope — refrigerants!)

    But I’m a little unclear about what “reducing food waste” means. Is it the waste from growing the food (fertilizers and fossil fuels)? Waste from shipping it? Waste from grocery stores buying too much and throwing it out? Waste from all our driving to and from the stores, restaurants, pick-your-own patches? Waste from driving to the gym to burn off the excess calories? Waste from processed food? The obesity epidemic and the ensuing medical costs? Excessive food packaging? Our crazy-high meat consumption?

    How is the homecook supposed to respond? Does it boil down to The Pollan Mantra — Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants — or is there something more?

    My lunch…

    cheese and crackers, and then coffee and Reeses’ cups, and then an apple with peanut butter 
    and probably Twizzlers, too — can’t remember

    Like I said: Lunches are for munching and crunching. I have a hunch you agree.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (2.26.18), homecoming, roasted cauliflower soup, the quotidian (2.25.13), for my daughter, Molly’s marmalade cake.

  • the quotidian (2.24.20)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    We ran out of food and so I made some. Dishwasher girl was not pleased. 

    The curry pot.
    Lunch salad, with a side of reading
    I thought we got rid of him.

    Renaissance dog.

    She’s like a giant puppy. 
    Yard art.
    We have to lock the doors to keep her out. 

    Grumpy much?

    My older daughter: Mom, you look so athletic but then I see you play and it’s so disappointing. 

    Movie night.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (2.25.19), jelly toast, a love story, steer sitting, old-fashioned molasses cream sandwich cookies, the quotidian (2.23.15), peanut butter and jelly bars, the quotidian (2.24.14), birds and bugs, bandwagons.

  • hello!

    Now that our house is no longer overflowing, I’ve pretty much stopped cooking all together. Instead, I’ve been living on pretzels and cheese, popcorn, apples and peanut butter, ginger tea, red wine, chips, and eggs. The fridge is bare and everyone’s fussing about there not being any food, and I’m like, Stop fussing, there’s cereal..

    Yesterday, I threw together a stirfry with leftover rice, sausage, and spinach, and then, last minute, everyone made themselves eggs to go with. And tonight there will be mashed potatoes and steak and corn. And I baked one of my freezer coffee cakes this afternoon.

    So it’s not like we’re not starving or anything.

    *** 

    I still feel like I’m recuperating from all the activity, though. I was sick last week (just a cold) and haven’t been sleeping well. And then one of the kickboxing instructors alerted/invited me to the studio’s Valentine special — bring buddies for free — so I’ve been going to classes all week, some of which take place at 5:30 in the morning. So now, on top of the cold and lack of sleep, my entire body hurts.

    I keep telling myself to take it easy. It’s okay to rest. Napping’s good. Netflix are fun. Read.

    Anyway, for those of you who think I’m go-go-go all the time: I’m not. Just fyi.

    *** 

    Speaking of kickboxing: I need to find a better deodorant. Preferably, one that works. The kind I’m using — some cheap, unscented Dove stuff — just doesn’t cut it.

    Suggestions, please and thank you.

    *** 

    My husband and I watched Joker the other night. I loved it — I thought it was real and creative, nuanced and honest, beautiful — but my husband, not so much.

    It was actually pretty funny: the whole first half, I was like, Lah-de-dah-de-dah, isn’t this story fascinating? Isn’t the acting great? And my husband was literally writhing in agony from the social awkwardness of it. I had to hold his hand so he wouldn’t walk out, and even so he managed to flee the room on a couple times.

    Then the violence picked up and he calmed down and I started covering my face with the pillow. 

    We’re such a team.

    *** 

    Do any of you own a tortilla press?

    For awhile now, I’ve been contemplating buying one, but I’m worried it’d just clutter up the shelf. On the other hand, if it made tortilla-making that much easier (I hate the rolling-out part) then I’d presumably make tortillas more often and it’d be worth it, right?

    Ugh. I hate it when I can’t make up my mind.

    *** 

    The other day I came across this post about spring cleaning.

    Pretend you’re going to be selling your house, Sarah writes. Go into each room and make a list of everything that needs to be done to ready it for showing to potential customers: painting, a new chair, patching holes, decluttering, etc. Then, one room at a time, do it. Get it nice — not for the customer, but for yourself.

    It’s an intriguing idea, but I don’t think it’d work for us, since most of the work would fall to my husband and, well: if you’ll recall, that kitchen island took three years (or thirteen years, depending on how you look at it) to finish, and I’m still waiting for him to install a couple easy-peasy latches on the cupboard doors.

    I’m not fussing, mind you (not too much anyway) — just, keeping it real.

    *** 

    I’ve been writing, often five mornings a week. People ask me how it’s going. The answer: I’m doing it, so … good?

    It’s weird how I have so little to say about something that I spend so much time doing.

    *** 

    My new experiment: bamboo toothbrushes!

    I haven’t tried them yet, but the kids love them. Since they’re all identical, we just write our names on the handles.

    *** 

    My younger son is into plants. Or growing things? Whatever.

    I’m not sure where he gets the interest — neither my husband nor I are particularly good at growing things — but he’s forever sticking plants in dirt, or water, and trying to get them going. Just this afternoon, he came back from a friend’s house with a start for a houseplant that he’d begged.

    For awhile, he cluttered up my kitchen sill with his starts, and then, once he moved into his older sister’s tiny room, I ordered him to take them all upstairs to his new room. He kept the plants clustered on an old end table in front of the window, but then, for his birthday, my husband built him a special plant shelf that runs across the upper half of the window so he could get rid of the table and save space.

    It wasn’t completely finished when my son’s birthday rolled around (see above about spring cleaning), so my son sealed it with tung oil and then installed it himself.

    And now he has lots of room for his plant collection!

    And the arrangement of the room — with a cut-to-size bed above the dresser — is the best we’ve come up with to date.

    He’s got tons of storage and work space, good lighting, and a cozy reading nook.

    It’s tight, but it’s all his. He loves it.

    This same time, years previous: homemade pasta, the quotidian (2.20.17), doppelganger, Jonathan’s jerky, in my kitchen: 11:50 a.m., almond cake, pan-fried tilapia, toasted steel-cut oatmeal, cream scones.

  • the quotidian (2.17.20)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    Supper (and breakfast) for the homeless shelter.

    For my cold-fighting tea.
    And then, even though it’d been obvious, much joyful shrieking ensued. 

    For the sprout: cookbook boosters.

    Time out.

    “EMU opened my mind,” edited.

    This same time, years previous: collard greens, kitchen sink cookies, thursday thoughts, chasing fog, the quotidian (2.16.15), chocolate pudding, how we do things, chicken pot pie, just stuff, foods I’ve never told you about.

  • the quotidian (2.10.20)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace
    Celebrating 17.

    Physics with Grandaddy: a mousetrap car.

    Braids for big girls, braids for little girls.

    The giving circle.

    From the trickster older brother: a locked briefcase with a complicated puzzle.

    What listening (or sleepiness?) looks like.
    photo credit: Mia

    Hey, let’s play Zap The Host!

    Shadow slashers.

    And now, an ultimate mini-series:

    ultimate photo credits: my older son

    This same time, years previous: snake cake, crispy baked hash browns, a horse of her own, the quotidian (2.9.15), and then I turned into a blob, seven, gourmet chocolate bark, addictive and relaxing.

  • stack-of-books birthday cake

    For his fourteenth, my younger son wanted to make his own birthday cake.

    I know, I know, it sounds nice, the kid offering to do the work himself and all (and it was sweet of him!), but I knew better than to believe that it would simplify my life if he made his own cake. I’d still have to observe and teach, orchestrate and facilitate, and, perhaps hardest of all, sit on my hands and bite my tongue, ouch. Plus, we had a million people in the house and there was no room in the fridge for multiple chilling cakes and, on top of everything, he’d requested timpano for his birthday supper.

    I didn’t know how much more I could handle.

    A few days before his birthday, he made two chocolate cakes and stuck them in the freezer. I did a little research and we discussed decorating ideas. The day before, I made the Italian meringue buttercream — I wasn’t about to let him tackle that finicky recipe on his own — but we didn’t get around to really working on the cake until the day of.

    The day went, more or less, as I thought it would. There were drifts of confectioner’s sugar, tears, hours of making and creating, fights, and multiple floor washings-up.

    Mid-afternoon, exhausted from being on my feet all day, I threw up my hands and told him he was on his own, at which point he cheerfully made the finishing touches on the cakes and then turned his attention to helping me with the timpano, and then, without being asked, washed all the pre-supper dishes by himself.

    For the cakes, we were loosely — very loosely — following Yolanda’s design. However, my son wanted the fondant super thin, and, since he chose a more tender cake recipe rather than the sturdier one, the books ended up looking rather soft, more like paperbacks.

    Some of his favorite titles. Can anyone guess the top book? 

    In spite of all my kvetching, they turned out pretty nice. I actually kind of liked the battered, worn look. In our house, that’s what books usually end up looking like anyway.

    This same time, years previous: good morning, lovies, the quotidian (2.6.17), loss, cheesy bacon toast, chocolate mint chip cookies, in which we enroll our children in school, seven, travel tips, the perfect classic cheesecake recipe.

  • the least we can do

    After the big earthquake on January 7, I messaged friends in Puerto Rico to tell them our home was open. If you need a place to get away, I said, come. And they took me up on it! Last Wednesday, a friend came with her three kids, and Chiro and Lery’s youngest son Dereck came, too. He’s moving here, planning to stay indefinitely.

    The situation in Puerto Rico hasn’t been easy. Some people are coping okay, but others, their emotional reserves already depleted from Hurricane Maria and all the political turmoil, are having a much more difficult go of it. The tremors keep coming (yesterday there was another 5.0), which makes it hard to relax. Many schools are still closed and people feel trapped in a constant state of waiting, unable to return to a sense of normalcy. Living in an elevated state of tension, worry, fear, and panic takes a tremendous toll.

    This month, our friend Leryann, the one who is living here, is moving our of her communal living situation to a house that she’s rented so she can receive family members, the first of which is her brother Dereck. There’s a good chance more family will be coming soon, though how many, and when, is still unknown.

    In the meantime, I cook (like, a lot). My husband and I show them how our washing machine and coffee pot works, tell them which stores have what they’re looking for, edit email correspondence, problem solve, and make phone calls and connections on their behalf. Mostly, though, we just try to stay available.

    It’s the least we can do.

    P.S. For more about the current situation, here’s an article that a friend posted on Facebook this morning. Also, here’s the earthquake tracker (that I refresh daily) and a good article that explains the emotional toll of earthquakes.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (2.4.19), chicken and sausage gumbo, twelve, baked brie with cranberries and walnuts, object of terror, a Wednesday list, itchy in my skin, how we got our house, taco seasoning mix, wheat berry salad.