Saturday, September 29, 2007

My Quest

I love to make bread. I realize it's not necessarily cheaper than buying it, and it's certainly far more time consuming, but I enjoy doing it, and as far as I'm concerned, few things in the world are as heavenly as a slice of bread hot out of the oven.

I am a whiz at banana bread and I have a very good white bread recipe, but have yet to find that perfect, soft whole wheat bread recipe. I've tried several, but each one seems to be worse than the last. The cookbook that gave me my white bread recipe has a whole wheat bread recipe in it, and everything I've made in this cookbook has been good thus far, but I have a problem with this particular recipe. It calls for powdered milk. I know what you're thinking: so what? I'll tell you what.

When I was a kid, we had to endure the cruel and unusual punishment of drinking powdered milk. When we ran out of milk, we didn't go to the store to pick up another gallon, we pulled out a box of powder, mixed some with water, and voila! Milk... if that's what you want to call it. It is nasty, nasty, nasty stuff. Do you know I didn't know milk came in gallon jugs until I was about eight? I never drank milk at my friends' houses (Kool-Aid was our drink of choice), so I just didn't know. Anyway, when I saw "powdered milk" listed as an ingredient in this recipe, my first thought was, "Do they even make that stuff anymore?" and then I felt my throat begin to close in rebellion to even the mere thought of it. Still, I thought I could probably find milk of the powdered persuasion and try the recipe.

I went to the store, and found it on the baking aisle, where I cleverly thought it would be. After being shocked that it was $3.00 for a box that would make three quarts (is there really that high of a demand for dehydrated milk?), and then being annoyed that I would end up with a bunch of leftover powdered milk, especially if I didn't end up liking the bread, I went to pick up the dreaded box. As I lifted it towards my cart, I had to stop. I couldn't do it. I couldn't buy it. What if someone thought I was making my child drink this? What if someone came to my house and looked in my pantry and saw it? It would be so shameful. If you never had to drink it, year in and year out, you can't possibly understand. There were flashbacks. It's like I have post-traumatic stress from the fake-milk of my developmental years. I have PPMD. Post-powdered-milk disorder. I put the box back. It took a few minutes for the sweat to evaporate and the dizziness to go away, but after a few deep breaths and a quick escape from the baking aisle, I felt much better.

I'm still looking for a good recipe, though.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A favorite dinner

I discovered this recipe while watching the television version of Real Simple (it's a magazine, too). I decided to give it a try, since we adore salmon in our house, and it seemed like a relatively painless process. Also, since it was on TV, I got to see what this mysterious vegetable called fennel is and how to prepare it. Just in case some of you are as lacking in education as I am, this is fennel:

Apparently, in some grocery stores, they call it anise. I don't know why. Some vast self-righteous foodie conspiracy, I'm sure. Anyway, in the middle is what the recipe-making lady called a "woody core". You don't want to eat it, unless you like chewing on things that are tough and tasteless. If you cut the fennel bulb in half up and down, you'll see it at the bottom in the middle. Cut it out. Also, fennel tastes a bit (and smells a lot) like licorice. Black licorice. This scared me because I do not black licorice as much as Hollywood doesn't like President Bush. Yeah, it's that serious. However, once it's roasted, it's quite good, so don't be afraid of it. If you are still afraid of it, I suppose you could come up with some sort of substitution, but I'm not gonna help you with that... mostly because I have no clue what you might use.

Anyway, my husband and I don't usually agree on what tastes good, but we both love this- as does our 18 month-old, who will eat almost as much of it as we do. The tomatoes burst open and are so good (and I'm not big on tomatoes in general), the onion gets sweet and soft and the salmon is fantastic, and the recipe practically makes itself. What's not to love?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet

On my husband's birthday I decided to be a good little wifey and get up early to make him one of his favorite breakfasty items: blueberry muffins. Having no blueberry muffin recipe of my own, I turned to the internet, where I found several recipes labeled their authors' favorite. One of them said something to the effect of "all of my houseguests are amazed at how fantastically delicious these muffins are". That sounded good to me, so I decided to make them. BAD IDEA.

First of all, this recipe called for cornmeal. Odd, I thought. But, hey, people put raisins in their meatballs, so who am I to judge? (By the way, if you put raisins in your meatballs, never make meatballs for me. That is a crime against nature.) I should have listened to myself. Once the batter was almost completely mixed, it had the consistency not of batter, but of polenta that had been kneaded on the beach- in the sand. However, there was still one more ingredient to add: three tablespoons of melted butter. Because that was somehow going to save this crap. However, I, being utterly brilliant, decided to substitute the butter for sour cream, because I read over and over that "the secret to great blueberry muffins is sour cream". Oh, okay. Sour cream I shall use! I figured it would be akin to substituting applesauce for oil in cookies- not that I've ever done that, but I've heard about it. Once the sour cream was mixed in, the "batter" still looked questionable at best, but I thought that perhaps somehow the baking process would save this train wreck. WRONG.

To say that they were gross would be generous. These things were nasty. Like dry, mealy cornbread with blueberries. A complete waste. My husband offered that if you put "a ton of butter" on them, they "weren't horrible". This man eats a "salad" made of lettuce, cheese, oil and huge amounts of vinegar. And he's saying they're not good. Yeah. Needless to say, I made a trip to the bakery that morning.

So if you find a muffin recipe with cornmeal in it, put it away. Do not cross go. Trust me, if you knew what I was saving you from, you'd thank me later.