25 January 13 • MAV

Well, January is nearly gone (thank goodness because it has not been my favorite month, harumph!) and it’s time for me to make a quick check-in with my resolutions. I’m moving along well on the Cooking (been eating in a lot and many times by warm candlelight) and Resting (taking weekends off and getting lots of sleep!) and still working on Giving and Walking. Hey, one thing at a time, right?

I’ve been enjoying cooking/baking and trying out many new recipes (some of which we’ve already been made and remade). A few weeks ago I pulled out one of my favorite little books: Cooking With Wholegrains by Mildred Ellen & Vrest Orton. This is a lovely understated book which represents and supports everything I love about baking: simplicity, experimenting and using wholegrains. And it has a little attitude as well!

Vrest Orton writes in his Word Of Warning at the beginning of the book, “There is some confusion, in the public mind, about two other terms often advertised. One is Unbleached Flour. This is simply white flour, without chemical bleach. In no sense is unbleached flour a wholegrain because, like any other white flour, it does not contain the natural vitamins and other nutritional elements always present in stoneground wholegrains.” And he goes on to talk about water ground meal. I just like how he cuts right through it. And he continues that tone throughout the rest of the book encouraging the reader to see “cooking as an art form.” This is my kind of couple! Mildred, if I can call her that, lived until she was 99 years-old. There’s certainly something to be said about that.

It’s lucky that I love the taste of wholegrain flour and I don’t have to force myself to use it for the sheer goodness of it. But I know not everyone is like me. That said, I think a simple biscuit is a great place to start if you are just trying to get more whole grains into your world. Why is it a good place to start? Well, you can (and should) slather it with butter and that may help you ease into the enjoyment of this type of baking. I encourage you to try out this simple wholegrain biscuit with your winter soups and stews. It’s simply delicious. I use a little corn meal because I love this combination but you can use all whole wheat flour if you like. That is what Mildred does!

Baking Powder Biscuits
adapted slightly from Cooking With Wholegrains by The Ortons
makes 8–10 biscuits depending on size

1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C yellow corn meal
1 t salt
4 t baking powder
5 T unsalted butter, cold
1 C milk

Pre-heat oven to 450ºF / 230ºC. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift dry ingredients together well two times (don’t skimp on the sifting). Cut in butter until the mixture resembles course meal. Add enough milk, a little at a time, to make a moist dough. You might not use the whole cup or you might need a little more. You want the dough to come together easily and be moist but not damp. Turn the dough out onto a lightly wheat-floured board and pat out to 1/2 inch thick. Cut out your biscuits (I use a glass to do this) and bake for 15 minutes tops. Serve right out of the oven with butter.

A Note: I’ve found the goal with this recipe is to handle the dough as little as possible. It may take a few times of making this to find your groove in that department. Don’t worry. You’ll find it. I use my fingers, gently, to bring the dough together after I add the milk which I think really helps the biscuits have a nicer tenderness. Sometimes a wooden spoon can just create too much action for the dough. At any rate, enjoy and, as Mildred and Vrest encourage, have fun.

25 January 13 • SCB

Fridays are “BFD” (Breakfast For Dinner) night at our house. We are all tired from the school/work week and the cupboards and fridge are often a little bare, but we can almost always put together a breakfast-style meal (and if I can pair it with a brunch cocktail like a Salty Dog, all the better). Sometimes we make french toast, pancakes or a dutch baby, but waffles are the crowd-pleaser.

My recipe for waffles is adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (I finally got a fresh copy!!) which remains my favorite resource for the basics. I use a combo of unbleached and whole wheat flours which makes for a hearty, but not heavy, waffle (whipping the egg whites separately keeps them light as well). Just slightly sweet, balanced nicely with the tang of yogurt—these are my favorite waffles. We eat our waffles with summer’s frozen berries warmed with maple syrup and some good bacon if we’re lucky.

BFD Waffles (feel free to eat them for breakfast!)
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

Note: While I think whipping the egg whites separately does improve the texture of the waffles, when I am feeling lazy sometimes I skip this step and just add the eggs whole to the yogurt, and the results are still quite tasty.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 3/4 cup yogurt (if you are using a firm yogurt, you may want to thin it a bit with milk)
2 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat your waffle iron.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix together the yogurt, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Beat your egg whites with a whisk until soft peaks form (you can use a mixer for this—I always do it by hand). Fold the egg whites gently into the batter.

Oil your waffle iron and spoon the batter on to the hot griddle. The batter will be thick, but will spread when you close your iron. Cook until browned (time depends on your waffle iron). Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven. Sometimes I double a batch and freeze the leftovers between sheets of parchment and reheat them in the toaster oven.

Variations: Add a sprinkle of granola or sliced almonds (shown above) on top of the batter before you close the iron. Sometimes we also crumble bacon on the batter or add thin slices of apple or pear.

18 January 13 • MAV

I grew up in Muskegon, Michigan just off the lake. In Muskegon we got a ton of snow in the winter! When I was little (I was a little shorty pants and I guess still am) the piles along the sidewalks were much taller than I was. They towered over me (as you might remember me mentioning before)! My love affair with snow started back then and is still very strong today.

This week we had a fairly nice-sized snow storm and I was so happy. I love a day when I don’t have to take the car out for anything and can just venture out everywhere on foot. I love a day where big snowflakes fall all day long. It’s so cheerful to me (as long as I don’t have to travel, of course)!

As an adult my very favorite part of a snow day has shifted from sunny afternoon playtime to the dark nighttime. The hours after the snow has finished and it has grown still outside. That’s when I usually head outside for an adventure.

I love the textures and sounds of fresh snow. The way it pulls on the branches. The t-t-t-t-sound of my boots driving into it as I walk. I love climbing the little mountains of it and stamping my feet in where no one else has.

And I love the quiet. (This tree spoke to me. I stood and stared for many minutes.)

The snow has already melted mostly and is certainly not on the trees anymore. I can’t wait for the next snow day so I can go out again after dark welcoming the fresh snow and tipping my cap to the winter.

18 January 13 • SCB

Things have been busy around here as we get 3191 Quarterly Issue No. 10 ready for press (it will ship to subscribers mid-February and be available in our shop February 22nd). This week, I wanted to share some behind-the-scenes images and sneak peeks into what I think is going to be a really fun issue. As always, MAV and I will have recipes, stories from our travels and adventures, tips and advice, a creative project, and many, many photos to share. I am really excited to share it with you!

I am excited, too, to get back into a rhythm of my posts here. I have so many ideas and recipes that I haven’t been able to share here just yet, and MAV and I have many new plans to help enrich this space. I do love the immediacy and connection that blogging brings as well as the surprise of MAV’s post next to mine. We only occasionally plan or share with each other what are posts are going to be. We began our relationship based on serendipity, and it remains one of our guiding principles today.

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While Issue No. 10, won’t be in the shop until next month, we do still have copies of issues No. 8 and No. 9 while supplies last. Issue No. 8 will be disappearing soon. It is one of my personal favorites and includes the instructions for branch weaving among many other great stories and recipes.

12 January 13 • MAV

Here are two meaningful things I’ve written down in my notebook since the start of the new year:

“What happens if this happens?”
—Miles, my nephew (speaking as he mixed one dot of paint color with another)

“We’re every one of us imperfect. We’re every one of us, in some way, wounded animals. The most important thing is to take care of each other.”
Barry Lopez, a writer

I’ve been thinking a lot since the year turned over about how we humans effect each other. We share space with perfect strangers as we walk the planet and we can be so careless about it (honking our horns, given sneering looks, gasping heavy sighs in long lines at the grocery). Sometimes we are even careless when we share time and space with those we love. We can’t help it; we’re human.

While I can’t be perfect and present in every moment of every day, I want to spend a little time as the year starts thinking about how to be a better more engaged human.

Here is my new meditation exercise for January:
I sit for 5 minutes each day (whenever I can find the time: morning, noon or night) and say the names of those for whom I am grateful. I sit, close my eyes, breathe in deeply and just say the name in my head. I think of that person, what they mean to me and what I mean to them. I think of how we are connected and how we can be better connected. I may only get through two people in the 5 minutes but regardless I open my eyes and feel my head is much clearer. My thoughts are quieter. I feel more grounded and ready to be an engaged human again.

My oldest nephew Miles and I painted our own solar system yesterday (you can see our work here in these photographs). We painted Mars and Jupiter, the Sun and the Earth. We also painted comets and meteors.

As I looked at our small solar system when it was complete I was struck with how simple it looked, how beautiful, and I realized that I now have a place to envision when I do my next meditation. A quiet and colorful place where I can sit amongst our planets and our sun and feel grateful for my life and those who are in it. Happy New Year to you all! I am so grateful to be here in our space once again.