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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: 2011-01-16

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On The Phone With Dad: Seven Dollars

This is a verbatim transcript of a recent conversation with my father.

I am on the train.  My phone rings.

Me: "Hello?"

Dad: "The bill is thirty-five dollars.  What's the tip?" (notice the lack of a "hi, how ya doin?" there)

Me: "Seven dollars."

Dad: "Seven dollars?"

Me: "Seven."

Dad: "I'll give her 10.  Okay, honey, thank you."

Me: "You're welcome."

Dad: "Don't tell anyone about this."

Me: "Okay, I won't."

Dad: "Unless it's in the book you write about me."

Me: "Okay, Dad."


Seriously.  I couldn't make this up.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cinnamon raisin bread.  Three words which work so beautifully together.  Three words which have comprised my breakfast all this past week.  And a snack as I was writing this post.  Because how can you mess around with pictures of a food you happen to enjoy...highly...without eating said food which you know is just sitting in your freezer, a mere 30 microwaved seconds away from edible bliss? How?

You can't.  That's how.

Anyway, I saw this recipe over at Food.Baby and I knew I had to give it a shot.  You see, cinnamon raisin bread is my favorite bread. of. all. time.  When I was little, it was always such a treat to stay at my aunt's house and eat cinnamon toast in the morning.  It was like some sort of luxury item to my young white bread self.  The love affair continues to this day.

The only way I like it any better is with a snowy white vanilla glaze on top, which I first tasted when I visited Amish country with my family...and lemme tell ya, Rob and I are spending a weekend there next month, which means I'm buying and freezing at least two loaves.  And some Shoo Fly Pie, but that's another story.

I made a few alterations to the original recipe, which you can find here.  I held a few optional ingredients back, used soy milk (it worked beautifully!), and altered the amounts of ingredients in the swirl.  The original amounts did not sound like enough to me - in fact, I feel like it could use even more next time!  

To make the dough, warm milk is combined with a pinch of sugar and some yeast, then left to get moist and well-acquainted.  In the meantime, more warm milk is mixed with butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt.  The yeast mixture is added, and then flour.  The dough is left to rise for 90 minutes.

Once risen, it was dumped unceremoniously onto my flour-dusted counter.

Rolled out, it was...

...into a rough rectangle.

I said rough.  Don't judge me.

The dough is spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and raisins.  You can use regular or golden raisins, as long as they've been steamed or soaked til plump, then dried well.

Starting from one of the short ends, roll the dough firmly.

And, if you're me, you'll realize when it's time to tuck the ends under and plop into the greased loaf pan that you rolled the dough into far too large a rectangle.  You'll end up creating a fat worm shape.  And then tell your husband that this is going to be the ugliest bread ever.

Allow it to rise, loosely covered, for 45 minutes.  And be even more certain of the bread's ugliness.

Bake it for 45 minutes, unmold after 5, and you have...THIS!

Not the prettiest shaped bread, for sure...but close enough for jazz, as they say.

It was a real act of will, waiting for this to cool in order to cut into it.  But it was worth every tortured second.  A little bit of buttery goodness on top...and I'm in heaven, folks.  Heaven.

Of course, it's great without the butter as well.  It's just pretty much awesome all over the place.

In order to not have it go stale before I enjoyed every last crumb, I sliced it up and froze the slices on a cookie sheet.  Once they were frozen they were placed in a large ziploc bag, left in a sacred corner of the freezer, and have been enjoyed daily ever since, a slice with morning coffee here, a slice while watching trash TV there.

This may just become a Sunday ritual for me.

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 1/4 cups whole milk, heated between 110 - 120 degrees F (I used soy!)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Cinnamon Swirl:
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins (dark or golden)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, pinch of sugar and 1/4 cup of warm milk.  Cover and allow to moisten (around 3 minutes).

Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Combine remaining cup of milk, butter and sugar.  Mix for a minute or so.  Add egg, salt and vanilla.  Mix for another minute.  Add yeast mixture and, you guess it...mix it in.

Turn the mixer off! before adding 2 3/4 cups of flour.  Mix on low until flour is mixed in.  Switch from paddle attachment to dough hook.  Add another cup of flour and mix on medium speed.  If dough does not come together and almost clean the sides of the bowl, add more flour (up to 4 tablesppons, one tablespoon at a time).  Knead at medium speed for 3 minutes, until dough becomes smooth and shiny.
Turn the dough into a large buttered bowl and cover. Put the bowl in a warm place (I always use my oven with the light turned on) and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 90 minutes or so.  

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle, around 12 x 18 inches.  Spread 3 tbs melted butter all over surface, and sprinkle sugars and raisins on top.  Starting from one of the short ends, roll dough firmly.  Seal the seam and tuck ends underneath.  Place seam side down in a buttered loaf pan, cover loosely and allow to rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Melt one tablespoon of butter and spread over surface of bread.  Bake for 20 minutes, then loosely tent with foil and back 25 minutes more, until golden.  Remove bread from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding, then allow to cool fully before slicing.


Sharing with 504 Main, Designs by GollumFrom Mess Hall to Bistro & Tidy Mom - stop by and say hello!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pouring My Heart Out: Trusting My Instincts

Today I'm happy to have the opportunity to be linking up with Shell's Pour Your Heart Out over at Things I Can't Say. It's so timely because I really do need to pour my heart out over something that's weighing on me today.

Have you ever been in a situation which left a funny feeling in your gut? A situation which, though innocent enough on the surface, caused you to take pause and wonder if something was off somehow? Did you ever get a feeling about a person - someone who you liked perfectly well, but who said or did something which kinda threw you for a moment?

What did you do? Did you follow that feeling? Or did you talk yourself out of it somehow? Did you ever find out whether or not your instincts were on the money?

A few years ago, I went into the doctor's office for an appointment.  I had been feeling sick to my stomach on a very regular basis and wanted to talk to someone about it (I didn't know it at the time, but I had UC).  This doctor was someone who Rob had been seeing ever since he came home from the hospital after having contracted pertussis.  They had developed a great rapport, and once I moved in with Rob I started seeing this doctor as well.  We fell into a regular routine - I'd go in, he'd remind me that Rob's a bum and I'm too good for him, wocka wocka.  Eventually we'd talk about why I was actually there, and we'd part with a hug.

Except for when I went in with my stomach ache.  He came in and immediately started asking me questions about my birth control pills.  Now, I hadn't been seeing him for very long at this point and I figured that he saw on my form that I was taking them and wanted to know how they were working for me.  It made sense at the time since he was also a gynecologist (he would eventually become my gynecologist).  So I answered his questions, waiting to get to the reason I was there to see him.  But much to my surprise, he took out his pad, scribbled a prescription for refills on the pills I was taking, and started for the door.

"Um...hang on...are we going to talk about why I came in?".  He looked at me.  I explained my reason for being there.  He apologized and told me that he was swamped and that there was a huge backlog of patients.  Crossed wires with his assistant (who I'd explained my symptoms to), etc etc. 

As I was leaving the office, something was bugging me.  It seemed strange that he was so quick to write me a prescription, without asking me if I even needed it (I didn't at the time), and without asking how I was actually feeling.  It seemed rather negligent, somehow.  I told Rob about it and even told my mom - that's how much it stuck with me.  I can't explain why it did, but it did.

Still, I brushed it off.  I figured he was busy, tired, and that there'd been a miscommunication.  I was being overly picky, no one's perfect.  No big deal.  And over time both Rob and I complained to the other about him - mainly about how he was so quick to write a prescription without really attacking the problem at hand - to the point where I said more than once that I wanted to find a new doctor.  But hey, don't all doctors do that? Besides, he was so close to our apartment and we already had a good relationship with him.  We were willing to overlook it.

Then we moved last year - I was sorry to see him for the last time not long before we left.  He was sympathetic to our situation, to Rob's dad's health problems, and wished us well.  We've talked about him since then, and about how it was a shame that we were so far away.

Last night Rob found an article online stating that this man was arrested this past summer when it was revealed that he had for years been writing prescriptions for painkillers in exchange for sexual favors.  Unfortunately, one young woman (a 31 year old mother) died last spring after overdosing.  Her sister had known that he was the one supplying the scripts for Oxy and other drugs, and confronted him prior to her sister's death, telling him that this woman had already been in the hospital twice as a result of overdosing.  He wrote a new script the next day.

There were lots of other details in this article, things that turned my stomach, things he admitted to.  But that's not the point of my telling you this.

The point is that maybe I need to trust my instincts a little more.  After all, how often do you hear after the fact about people "just having a feeling" about someone who did something wrong? Most recently it was a former teacher of the guy who committed the shootings in Arizona - they said that they were uncomfortable around him and even feared that he'd bring a gun in to school one day, that he would laugh at inappropriate times and say things that made the other students uncomfortable.  But rather than taking action, I'm sure they talked themselves out of it.

I'm not saying that there was any way I could have known what was going on in that office after hours, and I'm fully aware that nothing was ever done to hurt me personally and that it's none of my business.  I am honestly praying for the women involved, and for him - clearly in order for him to jeopardize his career, not to mention the ethical issues involved, he must have some serious issues.

Still, I keep going back to that one visit.  My gut feeling was that this was not the right guy for me.  Regardless, I talked myself out of it and kept going back. 

I talk myself out of a lot of feelings.

Maybe it's time to start honoring my instincts after all.

How about you? Do you find yourself going with your gut feelings or do you tend to overthink things?


Monday, January 17, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower. That strangest-looking of vegetables.
Seriously. Not pretty. Even with the little green fringe around the edges. Not pretty at all.

But as we all know because we're grownups and grownups know these's not all about looks.
I like cauliflower because it is so adaptable. I have found that it can successfully soak up all kinds of flavors, which is a good thing because otherwise it's kinda...blah.

My absolutely favoritest way to prepare cauliflower is to roast it.

Drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper (and your choice of spices...I used garlic powder, but red pepper flakes would probably be super tasty!), roasted in a 375 degree oven for about an hour (making sure to turn it halfway through)...
Slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.  Deeeeelicious!
Roasting veggies = a great way to mix up what you may not have been super eager to include in your meals.  I know that cauliflower isn't typically something I'd reach for right away in the past.
Now? Gimme!!!
What's your favorite vegetable? Which vegetables (if any) do you like to roast?