Spring Peek-A-Boo

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Exercise, Firsts, No Whining

The First Day of Spring 2011 isn’t until March 20, but my day was brightened by this peek of what’s to come.

As I was driving home yesterday, I noticed this peeking up through my dormant grass. If you look closely, you can even see a bit of green grass.

Come on Spring! Bring on the beautiful blooms and choking pollen, as I’m tired of this cold weather. I can’t wait to return to a more reliable running schedule, and for my treadmill-less life that means no more ice on the roads!


ExperiMENTAL Foods: Double Rainbow Cake Test

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Firsts

So, I’m having fun playing with desserts. I’m finding that people love when I show up with some tasty new variation on an old dessert, but are also happy when I leave and make me take it with me. Conversely, I’m trying to leave the sweet temptations behind and they frequently end up in the garbage. I have no problems with this, as I’d rather it go to the landfill then attach to my ass.

Besides playing with variations of cheesecake flavors and cake frostings, I’ve been attempting to bake vegan and also more things from scratch, I became fascinated with the Cherpumple phenomenon which resulted in customized Pi-Cakes. I fell in love with friend Andrea’s Dessert Enchiladas to the point that if her husband doesn’t treat her right I’m ready to propose on the spot.

The newest thing I’ve been working on is for my dear friend Jett Micheyl’s birthday. A month ago, she tweeted this:

I want this cake for my birthday -> http://trunc.it/dy7lw
The link went to this insane creation:

You guys should know by now that I loves me a challenge! The cake in the photo has one layer with colors in rainbow order, and the other layer is in reverse order. Well, I decided to do both layers in rainbow order so I could call it the Double Rainbow Cake. (Title inspired by the Double Rainbow hippie dude videos.)

And so began the testing…
Last weekend I did two test cakes, because I wanted to test my procedure and also decide which cake mix to go with. Yes, I cheated and used cake mix. There were already too many variables in play, and I wanted to ensure that the cake would actually taste GOOD.

For the test, I tried a white cake mix and a yellow cake mix, since I found conflicting information on the internet on which provided a better looking end result. I also used a different technique in that for the white cake mix I evenly divided the batter across the six glasses, and with the yellow cake mix I used a graduated amount for each color. Red being the outside color needed more batter, violet being the inside color needed less batter. I varied the amounts based on location in the classic “ROY G. BIV” rainbow order between red and violet.

It’s pretty easy to tell that the white cake mix created more pastel colors, which were beautiful. But Jett is more vibrant than that, so I went with the yellow cake mix base and got much brighter colors. The trick will be getting the violet without making it quite so dark. I also preferred the result with the graduated amounts so decided it was worth the extra trouble. The flavor was remarkably similar, with the white being MUCH drier than the yellow. We decided yellow was the way to go for both vibrancy and moistness.

These photos are from the tests I did, using 1 box of cake mix in each 10″ cake pan. I intended that solely for the test, but decide to go ahead with the size for the final cake.

Check this space tomorrow for the final cake results.

I’m including the link to the “Double Rainbow Cake Guide”.

Update on Charity Book

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Firsts, No Whining

I’m definitely moving forward on this. I intend to meet with my father as soon as he’s able to discuss and hopefully attain the rights. If I’m unable to get them, then I have a story in mind to use as the center piece in its place.

I’m also considering following the advice of a friend to shop the book around to publishers. There are significant pros and cons to this, but I’ll make that decision once I have the completed manuscript in hand.

For those interested, please email me at VivMuse@gmail.com to join my contact list. Once I have more information I will contact those folks first, and will then post here as well.

Many thanks for the stories shared with me from the few that showed interest in this project. It’s definitely motivated me to move forward and inspired me to seek out works from other venues.

And extreme gratitude to those that have offered assistance in the hopes of helping to make this a successful venture.  It means so much to go from a whimsical thought to knowing that I have the help of seasoned professionals to keep me from ruining the noble intention of this book.

Gauging Interest on Stories for Charity

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Breast Cancer, Firsts, No Whining, Soulful, Too Long For Twitter

Edit – March 3, 2011 – This project is definitely moving forward. I’m fine tuning details now and will post an official announcement with submission guidelines shortly. Thank you for your interest. ~Viv

~~~~Original Post~~~~

I am contemplating seeking out the rights from my father to publish a story my mother wrote about the death of her beloved grandmother.  I don’t want to make money off of it, I just want to share it. Chooch and I discussed podcasting it, but I think I would prefer something Greater be done with it.

It’s the only complete story of hers that I’ve found, or likely ever will find, so I can’t do a collection of her stories. I’m considering making it the centerpiece in a book I hope to write about her. For this I would need time and distance from the subject to not feel overwhelmed and never finish it.

The other idea is to do a compilation of stories from other people that have been impacted, preferably on breast cancer but may include a wider variety of cancers. All profits would go to fund cancer research, if any are made. What I would need for this is submissions from folks that have a story to tell regarding breast cancer. While the story can be fictional, my preference would be that the author has either battled the disease or knows someone that did and was impacted by their struggle.

Again, my preference would be breast cancer stories since it has devastated my mother’s and my own life so profoundly with the loss of my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great aunts. It also looms greatly over my sister and I. That said, having lost my husband’s beloved brother to a different form of cancer, let alone several others, I’m not going to rule out including other cancer stories if I don’t have enough breast cancer stories to make a nicely sized anthology.

Let me be specific here, the story doesn’t have to be about the disease itself. For example, my mother’s story is in the voice of a child, and mentions aspects of the disease but is not clinical in nature. I envision a paragraph at the beginning of each story by the author, and this is where the inclusion of the story can be explained if not directly obvious.

Also, I plan on accepted works being paid an extremely modest fee.

What I’m asking is for anyone interested in submitting a short story to send an email to VivMuse@gmail.com and include:

  • Your level of interest (Definite, unsure)
  • What type of cancer your story will involve (so I can determine how many breast cancer stories are out there)
  • The expected length of your submission. I’m willing to consider anything up to 30k words, be it flash fiction, poetry, short story or novella.
  • An estimate of how quickly you think you can submit the work.

Please do not make submissions at this time.

If I move forward, this will likely either be a long-term project (as long as 16 months) or a short-term project (preferred – as short as 5 months), depending on the response that I get, so please be honest about your turn around estimate.

Please note, this will likely be the first publication in the publishing house that Chooch and I have been planning to start for over three years now.

And if you are someone that has never written beyond work or school requirements before, be fearless! If I move forward, I will accept submissions from anyone, regardless of experience level.

I humbly request that you share this post far and wide, even if you are not interested in participating yourself.

~~~I’m closing comments here, as I prefer that all discussion occur via email. ~~~

Review of Doctor Who: The End of Time

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Firsts, TV

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m going through and watching the new Doctor Who series, starting with the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston). Through a series of fits and starts, I was finally able to watch the two-part Season 4/David Tennant finale. It was utterly compelling, although I felt some bits were over-wrought. Even still, Tennant’s ease in the role made it utterly enjoyable.

I feel that the story with the initial focus was a bit more convuluted then it needed to be, even for a finale. First he’s facing The Master, then a sidestory with the “We’re Not Cactus” salvagers, and a business magnate that wanted his daughter to be immortal each throw wrenches into the storyline, and finally the long-dead Time Lords are fighting to come back into existence smack dab on top of Earth by twisting reality when The Master was eight years old. At least I think he was eight, feel free to correct me on this point. Oh, and now we know how the Weeping Angels were created.

After we get past the big climax against the Time Lords and The Master, The Doctor is celebrating his unexpected survival because the prophecy that has haunted The Doctor the entire episode, “He will knock four times and then you will die,” appears to have been wrong. Suddenly, you hear a quiet *tap*tap*tap*tap*. David Tennant freezes, then beautifully conveys the painful and chilling realization that Wilfred is knocking four times on a glass door. He instantly knows that to save Wilfred’s life he must sacrifice his own, which he does as he can not leave the loyal, courageous and humble man to his death. Mind you, he had a surprisingly human rant, but then he saves Wilfred.

Through an extensive chain of events that The Doctor goes through as his “reward” before dying, he visits the companions and other travelers he’s had since the series re-started. To me, it seems that his reward is taking actions that he normally wouldn’t have to extend or better the lives of those he loves. Martha and Mickey, Rose and her Mum, Captain Jack, and Sarah Jane and her son are all visited and have their futures altered by The Doctor. One of my two favorite encounters was his delivering a lottery ticket to Donna on her wedding day, which was purchased with money he went back in time and borrowed from her own father. (Hello, goose bumps!) My other favorite was when he visited a descendant of Joan, his love interest from my favorite episode, (two-parter) “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood.” (Forget goose bumps. Hello, tears!)

Was it overlong? Possibly. I harumphed to my husband, saying, “What the what? Eccleston didn’t get this kind of fan fare!” My husband agreed while informing me that not only was it Tennant’s farewell, but it was also Russell T. Davies’ saying farewell to The Doctor. As a well-loved writer for the series, and a major force in the series coming back in the first place, it was closure for all the stories that had been left unfinished. I also remembered that Eccleston only did one season, while Tennant did four seasons. With that in mind it makes sense, until you remember that when he dies he will regenerate. His body will change, but he comes back. I happily forgive this, since I didn’t have to see the Daleks or Cybermen again.

Since finishing Season 4, I’ve also watched:

Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest (2007) – Animated and well done, although I really and truly missed the depth of the human actors. The animators did a great job, but are limited as to what they could convey and it wasn’t nearly as enticing as what The Doctor was able to share with just a lift of his eyebrow and twinkle in his dreamy eyes. (What? He’s sexy!)

It was fantastic to see what they were able to do without the limits of the physical world, and I feel they fully explored the possibilities. The story itself was good, although not mind-bending, and one of my favorite elements was during the opening title sequence, where the now animated TARDIS is bouncing along the time vortex in place of the “real” TARDIS as we’re used to in all the other opening sequences. (Hat tip to Chooch for noticing it.)

My favorite part was in the DVD extras – a behind-the-scenes look at the audio recordings used for the episode. A heap of fun that I highly recommend you take the time to watch.

Doctor Who: The Next Doctor (2008) – A mostly fun and light-hearted story that ends, as is typical, with a touching story. And Cybermen, natch. I’m such a sucker for stories involving kids.

And the TARDIS (Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style), as opposed to the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space) we know and love? Simply brilliant.

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars (2009) – Another beautifully enacted story showing The Doctor’s eternal struggle with what he should do (based on the laws of time) and what his conscience screams at him to do. This time, he mixes things up with a heart breaking, yet oddly uplifting ending. Cheers for Captain Brooks calling shenanigans on “The Time Lord Victorious.”

I’ve got Season 5, Disk 1 at the ready for immediate consumption, but I think I’ll let this soak in before I watch it.

Fave Doctor Who Episode (Eccleston -> Tennant)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Convention Attendance, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Firsts, TV

It was partly geek shaming that motivated me to finally start watching Doctor Who. You know what I mean, the taunting and teasing that occurs when one is uncovered as not having knowledge of a particular corner of The Complete Geek Experience. For most things, I could care less of such judgment and am amused at the presumption that I MUST partake AND worship it in order to attain or maintain “Geek Cred.” Again, I could care less of my Geek Cred ranking/rating. I’m like Cartman. I do what I want.

I started watching the newer incarnations about 3 months ago. The final determining factor was being told not to bother starting further back than when Christopher Eccleston took over the role. I love him, so went ahead and dove in. Surprisingly, at least to me, my favorite episode does not include him.

“Blink” aka the Weeping Angels episode is the one I keep hearing about as the BEST EPISODE EVAR!!!! And I’ll grant you, that is one finely crafted, shiny-whiny episode. It is, quite literally, haunting and goose-bump-raising moments are scattered throughout. In spite of that, the light presence of the Doctor himself in the episode, with his brooding and burdensome role in the Universe, keeps it from being too heavy and dark. For being so spooky, it’s down right charming. And it’s clearly an episode that has resonated with fans, as I’ve already seen Weeping Angels costumers at conventions with their beautifully executed creations.

Weeping Angels

Weeping Angles seen at Farpoint Convention, Feb 2010

Still, it is not my favorite episode, which I was able to easily compare since it was immediately after what I have deemed my favorite episode.

“Family of Blood” is episode 9 of season 3, and is the second of a 2 parter. The first part, “Human Nature” sets it up beautifully and I was immediately pulled into the story. The characters are compelling and the acting superb. Without going too deep into spoiler country, you get a peek at another of the many burdens carried when you are the last known Timelord. It is absolutely wrenching to watch as David Tennant, Tenth Doctor, masterfully demonstrates the pain of having to choose between the life and love he wants and the life he’s destined for. It’s something I would have expected earlier in the series, at least the newer ones that I’ve watched. Maybe it was covered with one or more of the previous 8 Doctors? I don’t intend to go back and watch those, so if you know then please share in the comments below.

I won’t go into greater detail, but I urge you to give the series a try. It’s pretty family friendly, fairly campy and the aliens appear almost harmless and silly looking. (Except for the Racnoss. I didn’t like that spidery thing, no sir, not one bit.) It’s crucial that you start with Eccleston if you want to understand how Rose Tyler and others tie in during later seasons. If you do decide to skip his Doctor, you won’t be completely lost but you will lose some fantastic details and inside jokes.

The writer of both “Human Nature” and “Family of Blood” was Paul Cornell, and the only other episode I see attributed to him is “Father’s Day” during the first Eccleston season (as the Ninth Doctor).  This was also a great episode, so I’m not tremendously surprised. I found it to also be a great pull on the heart strings as Rose has to go back and witness a very painful experience in her life and decide whether or not to change it. I’d love to see more written by him, although it doesn’t appear that he will anytime soon. He has written several Doctor Who novels and comics, as well a few episodes of Robin Hood (2006) among many other things.

There are also a few Doctor Who specials. There seems to always be a Christmas special, and 2010’s was fantastic. Michael Gambon added to it as only he can. I also just watched “Waters of Mars” and all I can say is that I’m glad I’m not a Timelord. Heartbreaking life.

Of tremendous interest to (now fellow) Doctor Who fans is that Neil Gaiman has written what is currently scheduled to be the third episode of the upcoming sixth season.

Although I started watching them months ago with Chooch, I finally mainlined them by myself in the last 2 or so weeks. I finished Seasons 1 through 4 via Netflix streaming, Season 5 I’ll have to get via Netflix by mail. And while I’ve seen several episodes featuring the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, I’ll still watch the entire season in order since I wasn’t really paying attention to detail. I plan on being up to date when the sixth season starts.

So, why don’t you tell me in the comments –  Who’s your favorite Doctor Who? And which is your favorite episode from Seasons 1 through 4?

Thanksgiving 5k Race Results

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: 5k, Chooch, Computer, Exercise, Firsts, Health, No Whining

Chooch and I headed out early on Thanksgiving morning for the local Turkey Trot. It was cold, but we’ve run in colder and felt well prepared for it. I had my mittens and my hoodie over yoga pants and long sleeve race t-shirt. I had been tempted to wear shorts, as I’d overheard a hard-core runner tell incredulous friends at a January race in 25 degree weather that he runs faster in shorts because after a while he can’t feel his leg soreness due to numbness. Luckily, I’m not that insane. I haven’t baby stepped my way back to 5k’s by taking risks that could cause a long-term setbacks.

I was super excited because this was my first race since all the silly health drama started. We had to forfeit our registration in 2009 as that was the beginning of my health issues and I was having a ton of tests for scary illnesses being run. I was not running, exercising or psychologically prepared in any way last Thanksgiving.

This year’s race was held at a new location on an unfamiliar route, and I secretly hoped there wouldn’t be many hills since I seem to have knee pain more on the hilly routes. I’ve altered my stride when going down hill using lessons learned while covering hilly lands in the Lord of the Rings Online MMORPG. Laugh if you like, but in game you can run up hills as fast as you like, but running downhill at the same speed you’ll get a “broken bone” injury.  I now take what I call “gentler landings” and I’m already seeing improvement. Genius that I am, it took me forever to put the two together, and maybe they are unrelated but I’m certainly having less knee issues since I’ve made the change.

We made our way to the race start to pick up the optional race time chips. These are small, lightweight loaner chips you strap to your ankle to track your start/finish time since it’s impossible for everyone to cross the start line at exactly the same time. It also allows you to track your pace. After the race, the results are provided with your race time and pace. I have no expectation of having a winning race time, rather this is how I track my progress across races, as do many others.

We next headed over to the start line along with the other racers and walkers. We again survived the push and shove of over-adrenalized and aggressive runners wanting to start as close to the front as possible. Having been stuck behind walkers and strollers in the past, I can understand wanting to ensure you don’t have to try and run an obstacle course to keep your running pace. Still, there is no need for such rudeness. Personally, I would prefer if they said, “Excuse me, but you’re clearly not an elite athlete so I’d like to get in front of you now so I won’t have to run around you in a few minutes.” I’d find it far less rude than people averting their eyes as they elbow past. Chooch and I just shook our heads and laughed at their need to be “first” at the start. They should consider arriving earlier next time. Just sayin’.

The race started and off we went at a steady pace. Chooch was having trouble breathing because of his recent illness, and we’d already discussed the possibility of me continuing running if he needed to walk. I’m supremely proud of him pushing past the 1 mile marker before stopping to catch his breath and I continued on alone.

I had no music with me, so I just ran with the street noise and conversations of runners around me. I told myself I could stop when something hurt. I told myself I could stop at the water station at the 1.5 mile mark, but only for 10 seconds. I never had pain, only muscle fatigue. And I was stopped less than 5 seconds at the water station. Adrenaline wouldn’t let me stand still for long while the clock was ticking, but I truly needed water for my throat. The cold air had my throat very sore and very dry, but three sips were all I needed and off I went. Honestly, if I didn’t think it was bad manners to snatch a cup from a volunteer, suck it down and throw it on the ground as so many other runners do, then I wouldn’t have stopped at all. I make sure and say thank you and put the cup in the trash next to the station and continue on my way. Nope, I’ll never win any races that way. And nope, I don’t care.

I’m very happy to report that I ran the entire 5k for the very first time. And the race results showed that I solidly beat my previous best time by more than six minutes. I still have a very slow pace, but I’m thrilled with these improvements. Chooch also had a great improvement on his last race time and I’m proud of him for going when he had an excuse not to go. He’s got a warrior spirit, just as I’ve always known.

I also want to give a Universal thank you to those that cheer for runners along the route. As with all the races I’ve done, there were people that had put up signs or were standing outside on the streets or their porches lending their strength to us as we plodded past. I’ve always appreciated it, as it does indeed add a spring to this gal’s step.

I know hubby took a tally of the oddly costumed folks at the race, and I’m hoping he’ll post those in the comments. There was one very memorable one that had us laughing and wishing we could snag a photo, but it wasn’t meant to be.

The next race is in 2 weeks, and I’m not so cocky as to feel that my successful completion is assured. Even if I’m a bit slower, or can’t run the whole damned thing, I’m just happy to be in motion again.

Baby steps, indeed.

Cherpumple Exploits

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Cooking, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Family, Firsts, Friends, Our Kids, Podcast

Fiddle dee dee. I came to post an update on my cherpumple exploits only to discover that I never posted anything about it here. Shocking!

A cherpumple is a dessert phenomenon that I first heard about thanks to J.C. Hutchins, when he tweeted a link to a picture of it either at the end of July or beginning of August. Intrigued by the link, I naturally googled it and found a video showing how to make your own.

Chooch and I were amazed, and discussed possibly making it for BlenderCon, our annual party that was coming up a few weeks later. We got the name BlenderCon from the name of our blended family podcast, Into the Blender. We decided against it because we’d already spent quite a bit on what was needed for our chocolate fountain, which has been a part of the tradition since we held the first BlenderCon in 2008.

A week or so later, I was listening to Jared Axelrod’s Fables of the Flying City and he was discussing the sixth anniversary of podcasting. (No, August of 2010 wasn’t the fifth anniversary as Apple celebrated. It was just the fifth anniversary of Apple listing podcasts in their iTunes store.) Jared felt strongly that something needed to be done in August to celebrate it, and I realized, hey! We’re doing something in August! And Jared’s coming to it! We should make the cherpumple! Sixth anniversary, six desserts in one! Perfect!

I baked it the night before the party, and stressed because it was not as pretty as I’d hoped, mainly because of the cream cheese frosting I used (very sticky and unforgiving), as recommended in the video. In spite of the imperfections, the dessert was a hit. It’s definitely more of a spectacle than a dessert, but was enjoyed by all. Our dear friend P.G. Holyfield even took up the challenge I laid down to combine cherpumple with chocolate fountain. I’m happy to say he survived the sugar overdose and has mostly recovered. Mostly.

For further explanation, a cherpumple is a three layer dessert that includes a cake and a pie in each layer. The top layer is yellow cake with an apple pie baked inside; the middle layer is a white cake with a cherry pie baked inside; the bottom layer is a spice cake with a pumpkin pie inside. Once baked, you stack and frost as you would any layer cake. It was re-named the CakePieCakePieCakePie that night, and our friend Dr. John Cmar announced that 5 diabetics living nearby had just dropped dead because of the amount of sugar in the dessert. I’m pretty sure he was kidding.

Paul Fischer blew out the number “6” candle on top since he was the person in the room that had been podcasting the longest, and then we started carefully cutting slices. It’s as difficult as you might expect. Most people doubled up and really just wanted to taste each of the levels. The best flavor, as we were told by most guests, was the spice cake/pumpkin pie layer. I’d have to agree. The two flavors are perfectly suited and completely enjoyable.

It was such a huge hit, that when we were planning my son’s farewell party a month later we decided that I should make it again. I made a few changes, such as making all the layers 10″, instead of 8, 9 and 10″. More importantly, I dumped the cream cheese frosting in favor of vanilla frosting. It turned out much prettier and the flavor didn’t seem different at all. Besides, most folks were diving straight into the layers without going near the frosting.

When Chooch lifted the cake to move it before the party, he decided we needed to weigh it since it was so heavy. It tipped the scales at 17 pounds. I started to feel really guilty at that point.

It was again, a huge success. Just like before, everyone just wanted to try each of the layers and most ended up in the trash. The majority again held that the pumpkin/spice layer was the best.

I’ve sworn off making the full, three layer monstrosity. We’ll see if that sticks.

Review of "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day…"

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Chooch, Cooking, Firsts, Health, Soulful

I’m finally getting around to writing a review of the book I used to make my first ever pizza dough in my “Firsts” series of posts, most of them during Labor Day weekend.

A weekly meal routines we’ve fallen into over the last eight or so months is “homemade” pizza on Friday nights.  I would purchase a whole wheat pizza shell (Boboli-type) and we would top them ourselves with our favorites. It’s healthier (whole wheat) and much cheaper this way, since the shells run about $5 and the results are individualized.

As is my usual luck when I find something I love, the store next door stopped selling the whole wheat pizza shells about two months ago. I wanted an alternative other than buying at a store I have to drive to, so I started looking at whole wheat pizza dough recipes and although not terribly difficult, I just … didn’t wanna…

Then I came across this book while zipping around in Amazon and was immediately hooked. It’s title “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I read the product description and was curious as to whether or not any whole grain recipes were included. Then I noticed another book by the same authors Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients. The description there really had me excited, so I put the book on reserve at my library and checked it out the next day.

I opened the book to skim it while I was still in the library parking lot, and decided to grab the few items I would need to make my first multi-loaf batch. I’m unable to afford all the recommended tools (pizza peal, baking stone, 5 qt container with lid) for a whimsical attempt, so I instead used their suggested substitutions. Very quickly I had my dough mixed and set aside for the two hours as instructed, and later that night used some of it to make whole wheat pizza dough. It was delicious, although the texture was a bit gummy.

Undeterred, I attempted two or three loaves from the remaining dough and was happy with the taste but not texture. Naughty Bear loved it and ate several slices, but neither Chooch nor I really dug in and I ended up tossing it.  (As Ramona says, “Bread makes you fat,” so I only eat REALLY tasty bread.)

I hit the troubleshooting chapter, which is pretty extensive, and found that different brands of whole wheat flour can cause variation in the results. I followed the recommendations and made another batch, resulting in much better pizza crusts (Friday to Friday). Due to insanity here, I didn’t get another loaf made from that batch, but am entirely sure it was improved based on the difference between the two pizza batches.

As for the process, it’s different from traditional bread making. Annnnd lookit, I’m not going to go into a huge explanation of the science. If you know me, you know my opinion of science (It’s great! But better left in someone else’s hands.). And you are correct if you guess that I read it all, but didn’t bother retaining much of why the system works. But even I can explain the system itself:

You make one huge wad of dough by quickly and simply mixing dry ingredients with wet ingredients in a 5 quart or larger bowl/container/whatevs. Then you park it loosely covered somewhere that your dog/kids/drunk uncle won’t knock it about. After two hours, during which time it has miraculously risen, you move it into the fridge still loosely covered. Now, depending on which dough you mix, it will happily reside in the fridge for up to 5 to 14 days, ready for your use. I have not tested the outer limit on that, but after a little over a week on one batch of the 14 day Master Recipe I question the claim.

Once it’s been refrigerated for … a while (who can remember, that’s what recipe books are for) you use a serrated knife to chop off a chunk and follow the provided steps to make a loaf of artisan dough, pizza crust, baguette, cinnamon rolls, or whatevs. The loaves I’ve made require an additional rising period of 90 minutes or so, but the pizza crust is rolled out and baked immediately.

To date, I’ve made the Master Recipe for pizza crusts and “artisan loaves” and the Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread Recipe with a very tasty loaf. I’m testing it out for pizza crust tonight to see if we like it better than the Master Recipe. This will be my last test batch, and if successful I’ll buy the book, pizza peel and baking stone (I’m already pretty happy with my container situation).

I should warn you that this process will take up a big chunk of your fridge space. You should really think this part through before making any investment. You may be able to get around this if you cut the recipes in half and use smaller containers.

Also, mixing the dough is a bit messy if you don’t use a 14-cup food processor or other machine (which I don’t have), but it’s still extremely quick and easy. I mix and store it in the same bowl, so the only thing I have to wash is measuring cups, a whisk and a wooden spoon. And let’s not forget, it’s bread making we’re talking about here. You’re supposed to get messy!

As for the expense, it’s waaaaay cheaper than a bread machine and I’ve essentially already paid for the book with the savings from 4 pizza crusts (I’m already counting the one I’m making tonight). The other items? We’ll call those an investment for the home.

Cooking More, In Frequency and Variety

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Cooking, Firsts, Friends, Health, Household

I was making a shopping list, and the recipes I’m shopping for made me reflect on recent-ish changes. I decided to write a quick post on this topic.

Not surprisingly, when I was working full time with a three hour daily commute my interest and time for cooking dropped off tremendously.  Partner that with a general recipe rut of cooking what I knew Chooch and my sons would like and you’ve got a couple years of routine dishes and a lot of boredom with cooking. We ate out a lot, I used a lot of cooking shortcuts and in general was borderline resentful of the entire process.

In the last six months or so, primarily due to a tightening in our budget, I’ve been cooking more. Add to this my renewed love of fruit and vegetables and I feel as if the whole culinary world has opened up to me again. I’ve been experimenting with new dishes, and while some were lousy, most were either perfect for us or close enough that some tweaking made them work.

I’m having a lot more fun in the kitchen and we are eating more wholesome foods as a result. This makes me extremely happy, especially with my fascination with Eat This, Not That lists.  We rarely venture into the extremely unhealthy realm of restaurants anymore, partly due to cost and partly due to my unwillingness to eat that unhealthily except in the most extreme situations. It’s just too hard to find whole grain options, and they add so much salt and fat to the dishes that it’s obscene.

In fact, thanks to a recent and delicious meal made for us by friends Heather and Marc, I’m going to attempt my first ever Indian dish. No, I’m not going to mix my own curry, and while I know this will offend some I have two words for you –  baby steps!

I’ve also been baking bread and am almost at the point where I ready to write a post on that subject in the next week or two. My love of whole grain/whole wheat is pushing me to find more and more options, and so far it’s been a lot of fun, even when the results are more brick-like than bread-like.

One very surprising turn that I’m taking is towards vegetarian and vegan foods. I have some odd food phobias, namely anything pork, anything on the bone, anything that lives in water, and any “exotic” meat (not sold in grocery stores) makes me squeamish as well.

While I still love beef and chicken, I am eating it less and less. This is partly because we have vegan and vegetarian friends that we do pot-lucks with fairly regularly.  I prefer contributing something that they can eat but that I will enjoy as well. I hate nothing more than testing a recipe on friends, so am seeking and testing recipes for future meals with them. This is leading to some interesting and healthy places, and for the first time I can really see the possibility of going vegetarian. I don’t think I’ll ever give up cheese, so vegan is probably never going to happen. I’m already maintaining a tenuous grip on eggs though, but for now couldn’t live with hubby’s delicious omelets. And it certainly simplifies baking, although I did get an egg-replacement product to test out for my vegan buds.

I’m off now to get some honey for bread and curry for dinner. It occurs to me a wonderful side effect of the new cooking jag is that my house usually smells AWESOME!