February 2008


I recently started making breadsticks on a semi-regular basis. The reason for this is that the first time I made them, I took a couple of shortcuts with the recipe, and ended up with the easiest ever breadsticks that my family absolutely loves. These are easier than buying a tube of “biscuit” dough and popping it open. They’re more stick than bread, not like those fluffy, gross things you get at everyone’s favorite fake Italian restaurant. They’re long, crispy on the outside, and very slightly chewy on the inside. Depending on how fat you make them, of course. We like them about as big around as a toothbrush. I don’t roll them out, so they’re slightly uneven, but the rolling takes sooo much time. Trust me, this way is better. Also, this dough makes fantastic pizza crust.

(You will notice that some of the photos are taken from about 3 1/3 feet above the floor. This is where I could no longer do the one-handed photography, and my wonderful little Calvin came to my rescue.)

Here’s what you do:

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast OR 1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
almost 2 cups cool water

In the bowl of an electric mixer, with the dough hook attached, measure flours, yeast*, and salt. Mix on low for a minute, to incorporate the salt and yeast. With the mixer running, add the water until it forms a ball on the hook. Mix on the second speed for about 4 minutes. If it’s too sticky, and there’s a lot of dough still on the side of the bowl, add flour a tablespoon at a time, until it pulls away. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Mix again at the second speed for about 2 more minutes. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for a while.

I say a while, because the rising is not so crucial here. I’ve let this rise for 1 1/2 hours, and for 3 hours. Once it’s risen, you can put it in the fridge for later. Just take it out about 1/2 hour before you plan on baking. You can also put it in the fridge overnight, which will improve the flavor. If you want, you can punch the dough down and let it rise again, which will also improve the flavor, but it’s not necessary.

About an hour before dinner time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grab a sheet pan and grease it with olive oil.
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Spread the oil until it all over. Set it aside.
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Flour your work surface. Yes, this is the entire work surface in my kitchen. Derek and I were talking last night about how, next time we buy a house, we won’t pick one with a mini kitchen.
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GENTLY loosen the dough from the bowl and dump it onto the floured surface. You don’t want to de-gas the dough, you want all the bubbles.
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With a knife or bench scraper, cut the dough roughly in half.
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Keep one half, and return the other half to the bowl and cover.
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If you are making a lot of breadsticks, you’ll use that other half. You won’t want to make extra for tomorrow, because these don’t keep especially well. The nice thing is that when you want more tomorrow, you can just pull the extra dough out of the fridge, cut it, and bake!

Cut that piece in half again.
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Move one half aside, take the other half, and gently pull the corners so you have a rough rectangle.
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Cut a piece from the long edge, about a finger’s width.
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Pick up the piece from both ends.
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Gently pull each end.
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It should stretch really easily, since you didn’t de-gas it or knead it after it came out of the bowl. When it’s about as long as your pan,
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lay it on the pan, the long way.
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Continue until your pan is full, then brush a little olive oil on each breadstick.
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I like to sprinkle Kosher salt on the breadsticks. Sesame and poppy seeds are also really good.
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Bake them for about 12 minutes, then check them. If they are not golden, bake for a few more minutes. If they are brown, they are maybe a little over done, but certainly not burned! These ones were crispy and yummy!
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You could experiment on how crispy you like them. I like them to be able to stand straight, so you could put them in a vase or something, and to crunch when bitten, but to have a chewy center. If they’re brown like the darker ones above, they will be crispy all through, like a long crouton, but still excellent.

One night when I made these, I realized I only had one cup of all-purpose flour. I substituted 2 cups of bread flour, and 1 tablespoon olive oil, to tenderize the dough, since bread flour has that extra gluten. I think you could also skip the whole wheat flour and use all white, but you might need less water. And if you’re in a high-altitude place, or a desert, you will need more water to make the dough soft enough.

*If you are using dry yeast and you like to proof it first, add it to 1 cup of the water, dissolve, and wait until it bubbles up a little. If you are using instant yeast, you just add it directly to the dry flour. If you’re like me, you use yeast often enough that you only proof it the first time you use it, just to make sure it’s alive, and then you pretty much use up the whole jar in a couple of months, before it has time to die. Also, you always keep it in the fridge or freezer.

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This morning, Zeeb descended the stairs and announced, “Mommy, I maked my bed! And I put my buggy and my Pippos under my pillow. Do you wanna come see?” Admittedly, I haven’t been enforcing the bed making rule, so I’m bewildered at his desire to do it at all. I’m pretty sure he’s never done it on his own before.

FYI: running in the freezing rain is definitely not a good idea. Especially when it’s getting dark. Yesterday, it had snowed in the morning, so school was canceled and Derek’s work was on 2 hour delay. (I used to scoff when I heard of places that would cancel school for 1/2 inch of snow, but my attitude has been corrected. In Utah, when it snows, there is usually a layer of white, fluffy snow. The roads quickly become slushy and muddy, and school is only canceled when there is so much snow that the plows can’t keep up, and people can’t shovel their driveways. Here, it will snow, then down will come the freezing rain, laying a lovely sheet of black ice across every surface, and the winds pick up to 40 miles per hour, pushing people and vehicles willy-nilly across the ice. Transportation is impossible, walking is treacherous. Running is stupid.)

I hadn’t run in the morning, because Derek took the kids sledding at the nearby golf course, and got home just in time to eat the scones I made and race to work without even showering. (I think I’ll post the recipe for the scones soon. They were delicious, and easy as pie. Or I guess way easier than pie, because you don’t have to roll anything out, unlike regular scones.) So I decided to got running when he got home in the evening. It was probably almost 6:00, which should have been my first deterrent, since I planned 4 miles, and it would definitely be dark by about half-way through.

I thought I could just stick to the roads, which is what I do anyway, and that way I could take advantage of the slush, instead of braving the deadly sidewalks. The rain was still coming down, but I had my new rain jacket. (Which is also an interesting curiosity. When it rains, you wear a jacket to keep you dry. But if you’re running, the added layer makes you sweat more than usual, thus making you more wet from the inside. When I did get home, I was drenched, but not from the rain.)

I went out, and immediately discovered the roads were still pretty icy. Stupid me, I just kept going just a little slower that I had planned. There was one point when, ascending a steep-ish little hill, I kept slowing down because my feet kept slipping out from under me, and suddenly, near the top, I was sliding backwards, with no way to slow down. I managed to get over to the side and jump onto the lawn. I still kept going.

After another mile or so, I was headed down a road that went through the very rich part of town, which is huge estates with huge houses separated by and nestled in the forest. Yes, I was running on a lonely, icy road that went downhill into the forest in the freezing rain at nightfall. I finally decided to stop there and cut through my loop and just go home.

I turned around, and found a street to turn on. I went up the road a little, to discover it was a cul-de-sac. Of course. And the neighborhood was forresty enough that I couldn’t see a road from the top of the little hill. Still, I thought I could cut through the forest and end up heading in the right direction. There were a couple of giant houses down the hill, one with many lights on, and one that was dark. I scrabbled through the forest, down the hill towards the dark one, hoping it wasn’t just the back that was dark. I finally found the driveway, and noted that the place was, indeed, vacant. As I traveled up the driveway, though, I came to the real house. I turned around, and beheld the garage, larger than my own home. Too late to turn back, I ran up the driveway, between the house and the gate-house, and as I was nearing the street, an SUV pulled in.

Mortification set in, and I slowed down to explain my plight. The lovely woman got out, and was eager to help me on my way. She made sure I knew where I was, offered to drive me home, and when I declined, offered the use of her phone, and when I declined, offered an umbrella. I think she had pity on me because when I was explaining that I had been a little lost, my voice cracked. Nice touch, eh? Not that I did it on purpose, I had just realized by then what a fool I’d been in attempting to run at all.

So I got out to the road, which, of course, was cobbled. Nothing like running in freezing rain on a cobbled road covered with ice in the dark. I managed to find my way home without further incident. I had only shaved 1/5 of a mile from the total distance with my foray in trespassing, but I had probably added 10 or 15 minutes.

So what are y’all doing for Valentine’s day?

It’s been a while since I did a running post, and I would love to find out how everyone is doing. I know a few of you are taking it pretty seriously, and a few are still thinking about it. I’ve been so impressed with the progress you’ve made, especially since you’ve started from the very beginning. Some of you had never run at all until a few months ago. I hope you’re beginning to understand the running addiction. I don’t know how many addictions could be called healthy, but running for sure is.

I’ve been gearing up to do a few races this year. I signed up to run a 10K in Massachusetts, with Elizasmom and her mom, and probably some other bloggers I’ve never met. That will be in the end of March. I get to visit my brother nungnung as well, and it will be my first time in New England. I’m hoping to run it in less than 50 minutes, but we’ll see.

I’m going to run the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon in May. It’s the biggest half marathon in the country, with 35,000 entrants. My cousin Liz and my aunt Barbara will be doing that one with me. I hope I can finish that in less than 2 hours. I finished my first half marathon in 1:47, but the first three miles were pretty steep downhill, so I’m sure I ran faster than I would on a flat course.

I’m also going to enter the Air Force marathon in September. I think my goal for that will be less than 4 hours, but again, we’ll see. I have no idea what it will be like to run 26.2 miles, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be happy if I cross the finish line.

I’m basing my goals on my recent running times, and on the times from races I ran before I was pregnant with Kiki, in 2005. The other day, I ran 3 miles in 26 minutes, which is better than my last 5K, even though I wasn’t racing. It probably made a difference that I was on a track, but it didn’t seem as hard as I thought it would be. Today, I ran 7 1/2 miles in blustery 35 mile an hour winds, and I finished in 1 hour and 13 minutes. I ran some hills, but the wind was really what made it hard. I thought I would get frostbite on my nose, since the wind-chill factor put it at about -5 degrees. I kept putting my mittens over my face until my nose and cheeks thawed. It was exciting. When I got home, I thought I would not be able to move the rest of the day, but now I feel fine.

So how’s your running? I’d love to hear any progress you’ve made, any races you’ve entered, any gear you’ve purchased, anything that makes you motivated, anything that you hate, anything. I’ve discovered that talking about running motivates me, whether the person I’m talking to loves running or hates it. I love running.

I’m ready to go off the grid and move into a cave and eat only fruits that fall off the tree and wear clothes that are made from skins of animals that are already dead that I skin and tan myself and not breathe anymore ever. I mean, come on. Biodiesel is WORSE than petroleum? What is there left? Aside from not driving any more and not using electricity and not having any more kids and letting all the cows and pigs go free?

Really. I mean it. Don’t laugh. Sometimes you just really want something from your childhood that makes you warm and safe. I won’t call it what everyone else calls it, because I hate that term with the fire of a thousand suns. Yet there are things that really do it.

When we would go to Grandma’s house in Provo when I was little, she would serve up beef stew in those mug-bowls that have a long handle sticking out of them. I always thought she made the best beef stew in the world. A couple of years ago, after I’d been living in my Grandpa’s basement (Grandma died in ’89), he invited me and the fam up for dinner. He spooned up bowls of beef stew with that same aroma that I remember from when I was 8. I was so amazed that Grandpa had learned how to make the stew just like Grandma used to make.

I later found out that it was Grandpa making it all along. Apparently Grandma wasn’t much of a cook, and Grandpa was the resident chef. And Grandpa really likes beef. The two things I can think of that he has cooked for us, on many occasions since then, are roast beef and beef stew.

Grandpa’s beef stew is probably simpler that what most people would make. Since Grandpa can’t tolerate any onions, garlic, or any, and I mean ANY herbs or spices, his stew has beef, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and salt, with the occasional green bean. As a kid, that was all I needed. I didn’t care what was in it, I just knew that it was the best beef stew ever.

This week I’ve had a hankering for beef. This is rare. It’s even rarer that I would go out and purchase a chunk of flesh and actually prepare it, but I did. I wanted to make a roast, to pair with my perfect mashed potatoes, some perfect gravy, and maybe a little salad. Unfortunately, I know almost nothing about choosing a cut of cow. I bought a 2 1/2 pound piece of chuck and brought it home. I thought I’d save it for Sunday dinner (isn’t that quaint?). On Sunday, I started getting a little sore in the throat area, and by mid-afternoon, it was clear there would be no roasting going on.

Monday morning, I had the worst sore throat I have ever had, with excruciating pain upon swallowing. Ice cream for breakfast, though! I decided to go ahead with the roast that afternoon, but when I got out my 1000 Best Recipe, it advised against chuck as the roast, but referred me instead to the stew page. I trimmed the meat and cut it into chunks, then went back to the recipe, which said it would take about 2 1/2 hours of stewing. And it was, of course, too late to start it and have it ready in time for dinner at a reasonable hour for children. So I stuck the chunks in the fridge and made some prosciutto pockets. And the village people rejoiced, as they devoured every last morsel.

So today, I was ready to stew. I don’t have one of those fancy enamel dutch ovens that I’ve secretly been coveting these many years. Nor do I have any sort of oven-safe stew pot. I do have a Crock-Pot, though. You should think that’s funny, since I returned all 6 of the slow cookers we got as wedding presents. Because I’m snob enough to eschew any easy-way-out Americana short-cut casserole cream of chicken soup producing novelty. I gave back the bread maker too. I’ve even been known to brag about not knowing how to use a crock pot, because I only do “real cooking.” Yes, aren’t you glad you don’t know me in real life? Anyway, my mom had bought a crock pot, thinking she could find a use for it, but since she’s the older version of me, she couldn’t. She passed it along a couple of years ago, and I’ve decided I’ll use it.

Slow cooker Beef Stew
Total time: 7 hours with changes in temp. If you put all the stuff in the beginning, I’m pretty sure you can just leave it on low for about 8 hours, or high for about 5, and have it done without any fiddling. I just added stuff as I was passing through the kitchen to do the laundry.

1 T oil
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of fat and silver skin, and cut into cubes
1/2 C red wine
4 C chicken broth
1 onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
salt and pepper
1 bunch small carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch lengths, halved lengthwise
3 stalks of celery, chopped
3-4 T tomato paste
5 or 6 medium potatoes, cut into large chunks
3 T butter
4-5 T flour

Plug in the slow-cooker and turn it on high. Pour in wine and chicken broth to start warming. Add onion. In a hot skillet, heat the oil and sear the beef chunks in 3 batches, adding to the slow cooker as they get browned. Add bay leaf and thyme. After 1/2 hour or so, turn to low.

After 2 hours or so, add carrots, celery and potatoes and about 2 t kosher salt and a bunch of pepper. Add the tomato paste in blobs, and don’t worry about stirring them in. Make sure the vegetables are barely covered with liquid. Cover and turn back to high for 1/2 hour, then turn back to low.

After another 2 or 3 hours, check the potatoes with a fork. When they’re done, it’s time to thicken the stew. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour and whisk for a minute or two. Add hot broth right out of the crock pot to make a gravy. I added about 3 cups of broth, then added a little water, whisking all the while. When it’s thin or thick enough for you, pour it back into the crock pot and stir gently to mix. Check for blobs of tomato paste, and mash them up. Remove the bay leaf and thyme stems, and the onions, unless you like big, slimy onions in your stew. I guess you could chop the onions before you put them in, but I have kids that complain about onions, and the bigger they are, the easier to pick out.

This makes a very meaty stew. If you added more veggies, you could probably feed 20 people on it, instead of 8. I think you’d need another crock pot, though.

The following is an excerpt from my missionary journal while I was in the Philippines. It’s from my happiest time as a missionary, a very brief 9 days. The 353 signifies that it’s the 353rd day of my mission. I haven’t included any names because the stories aren’t just mine. I’ve otherwise left everything as I wrote it in my journal, including the crappy punctuation. Zone Moti was a once-monthly motivational meeting where we talked about our successes, DM is the weekly version with smaller groups called Districts. ZLs are zone leaders, DLs are district leaders. CSP is community service project, CS is companionship study, where we discussed scriptures, language difficulties, and anything that was bothering us, and where we would role-play different situations that might occur while we were trying to talk to people about Christ.

I realize this is long and boring. My whole purpose for including it here is that I want to retell a couple of the stories from this entry, and as I was reading my journal, I just decided I should put it in word-for-word how I recorded it, then add the way I remember it later.

Shoot. I never write anymore and lots of good stuff has happened. We talked to Pres about my tooth and they bought me & Sis C. tickets to Manila. We went to Zone Moti on the 4th, Wed. The AP’s went too, to gave us something to take to Manila, and they drove us to the airport from Zone Moti. I puked on the plane. Sis C. said it was the most graceful she’d seen anyone puke. How many people has she actually watched?

Sis M was happy to see me. E. L. from Ilagan mission was there too. And E. K.

After I got my tooth fixed on Thursday, I asked Sis M to get me the soonest (sic) flight back. Saturday was the best they could do, but it was OK with me. E. L. was my travel comp. We saw some members in the airport who thought is was interesting to see one Elder and one Sister together.

When I got back, Sis M. and Sis C. had set some new goals and started developing a new way of presenting the first discussion. They wanted to teach at least one 1st a day. I got excited and we went out and had the funnest time. We decided we should be kept a 3-some even though we have 2 areas. We have found some beautiful families. On Sunday, we went to visit someone we had met a couple weeks ago. We had scheduled an apt with Sis E, so she told her family we were coming. When we got there, only Bro was there and I think he was sleeping. He didn’t look too happy. He started yelling for his wife and soon some kids started appearing. Then Sis E showed up. The Bro told one kid to go get his son. Word came back that the son didn’t want to come. So Bro got up to go get him, and he came Then Bro came back too! The whole family- 2 parents, 4 kids, all together, we were so happy. And the discussion was beautiful.

On Mon at DM we reported all our 1sts and the DL’s were impressed. Sis C has this funny thing she does when she says words with Hs. Instead of however, she says “owhever” or instead of hot oil, it’s “ot hoil.” It cracks me up. Today, she also told an investigator that he needed to ask God in the name of Crisco if the things we shared were true.

Wed the 11 was Sis Cs b-day. We CSP-ed at South Elementary school. It was a big fiasco at first. The Elders couldn’t find their copy of “Pig-Pen Mary” and we didn’t have one either. Sis M prepared a thing on first-aid & Sis C did one on cleanliness. So we just decided to do those two. Only the 3rd grade teachers didn’t want to let us do it. They looked for someone of “our own faith” to show us around. The librarian at the school is a member. Then the teachers wanted proof that we’d talked to the principal & had his permission. So we went to him & waited for him to type a permission paper for us and sign it. Our first presentation was a little boring. Only Sis M & C did anything. The second we all found something to do, only the teacher decided she wanted us to teach about good manners instead. So we did what we’d prepared, then E S & I taught about kabaitan (being nice). I taught them “Nais ko’y [magiging] mabait sa lahat” (“I want to be kind to everyone”) and it was a success.

Afterwards we went to Lam-Mars for lunch with the Elders and all pitched in for ice-cream and we ate a huge gallon of it. Then we were all sick. I puked and discovered ice-cream is the same coming out as it is going in. It was still cold. Sis [] tried to puke but couldn’t and just broke a blood-vessel in her face instead. Then she got mad at me because she was jealous.

We had a great day all together. Out of luck we taught a 1st to a wonderful woman that loved what she heard. We ran out of travel money so we walked to Labinab to the R’s new house where we decided to CS while we were waiting for Sis R to cook for us (b-day food) and we made a whole bunch of kids listen to us roll-play the 1st the new way we’re doing it, with all the scriptures. Then we ate only I gave Sis M the glass with the hot water that the spoons came in. I didn’t realize it was hot and she drank it anyway, then asked for some water that wasn’t hot. I asked if hers was hot & she said yes, then I realized what I’d done. Me & Sis C started laughing & Sis M asked if there was always one with hot water. I told her yes, that it was the one for the spoons and we all started laughing so hard we couldn’t stop for about 20 minutes.

When we finally left we were waiting for a trike and one came, but then we realized we had no travel, so we lied to the driver and told him we had a pupuntahan na malapit na nakalimutan namin (another place to stop that was nearby, that we had forgotten). We walked.