I am inordinately excited about cookbooks. I love them. I buy them, I borrow them, I get them from the library. I read them like novels, front to back. I use them.

I bought my first cookbook,The Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer, as a freshman in college. Sadly, I discovered too late that it was bound without pages 117-148. I contacted the publishers, and they curtly informed me that I would just have to buy another. Anyway, Ms. Rombauer undertook the task of collecting recipes for everything she could think of as a remedy for the depression she experienced when her husband died. It is full of age-old recipes, new, modernized recipes, quick recipes using convenience foods, and witty commentary, including old-wives tales, folk remedies, quotation, and verse. My favorite: On beaten biscuits, page 634:

To win unending gratitude, serve to any homesick southerner this classic accompaniment to Virginia ham. The following lines by Miss Howard Weeden in Bandanna Ballads sum up in a nutshell the art of making biscuits:

“Of course I’ll gladly give de rule
I meks beat biscuit by,
Dough I ain’t sure dat you will mek
Dat bread de same as I

“Case cookin’s like religion is–
Some’s ‘lected an’ some ain’t,
An’ rules don’t no more mek a cook
Den sermons mek a saint.”

Our boxes from the storage unit were delivered on Saturday night, and with glee, I began opening them to see what treasures had been secreted away these many months, even years. Since we had been living in a basement apartment with little shelving, we kept most of our books in boxes, but now, I’m going to let them free. Or course, I still don’t have any shelves, but those will come.

Here’s a list of all the cookbooks I’ve unearthed so far, in absolutely no order of preference.

The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer.
The Cake Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum
Vegan with a Vengeance, Isa Chandra Moskowitz
To the King’s Taste, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Early American Cookery, Margaret Huntington Hooker
The Splendid Grain, Rebecca Wood
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison
Jaques Pepin’s Table, Jaques Pepin
Potager, Georgeanne Brennan
finger food, Elsa Petersen-Schepelern
Greens Glorious Greens, Johnna Albi and Catherine Walthers
New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, The Moosewood Collective
Classic Indian Cooking, Julie Sahni
World Vegetarian, Madhur Jaffrey
Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, The Moosewood Collective
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, The Moosewood Collective
Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special, The Moosewood Collective
Bones, Jennifer McLagan
Cookbook of Breads, Sunset
Moosewood Cookbook, Mollie Katzen
Mexican Cookbook, Sunset
The Bread Bible, Peter Reinhart
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Peter Reinhart
Easy Beans, Trish Ross
Vegetarian Sushi Made Easy, Hiroko Fukuhara and Yasuko Takahata
The Silver Palate Cookbook, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
Secrets of Jewish Baker, George Greenstein
Great Cookies, Carole Walter
The Pie and Pastry Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, Recipes from the Hunan Province, Fuchsia Dulop
Arabesque, A Taste Or Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon, Claudia Roden
Chez Jacques, Jacques Pepin
Flavors of India, Madhur Jaffrey
First Meals, Annabel Karmel
Sundays at Moosewood, The Moosewood Collective
Moosewood Restaurant Celebrated, The Moosewood Collective
Breakfast, James McNair
From Julia Child’s Kitchen, Julia Child
The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines – China, Greece, Rome, Jeff Smith
The Frugal Gourmet On Our Immigrant Ancestors, Jeff Smith
A French Chef Cooks at Home, Jacques Pepin
Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, James Beard
Quick and Easy Thai, Nancie McDermott
Corn Cookbook, James McNair
Rice Cookbook, James McNair
Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook
Pretend Soup, Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson
International Vegetarian Cookbook, Sunset
Tofu Cookery, Louise Hagler
Light Desserts, Sunset
Hors D’Oeuvres, Sunset
Picnics and Tailgate Parties, Sunset
Pasta Cookbook, Sunset
Amish Cooking, Crescent Books
The Provence Cookbook, Patricia Wells,
American Pie, Peter Reinhart
1000 Best Recipe, Cook’s Illustrated
Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking, Julie Sahni
Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 1969 edition

That’s the list so far, but I think there’s at least one more box to find. As you can see, my collection is a mishmash of high and low cooking, vegetarian and non, ethnic, fake ethnic, baking, and general recipes. Just looking at them all makes me excited to go experiment in the kitchen. What should I make for dinner?

I was up with Gozer from about 1:00 a.m. until about 3:30. He was coughing, whining, crying, yelling, and really wanting to watch Home Alone. I gave him some cold medicine, and snuggled up on the big chair with him and a blanket, and put the movie in. I was a zombie, so I wasn’t really paying attention to anything, until he said, “My moustache hurts.” I told him I was sorry.

This morning, I asked him if his moustache still hurt, and he said no.

I made vegan chocolate cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes take over the World yesterday, with vegan chocolate “mousse” frosting. I wish the cupcakes would rise a little more, but they’re acceptable. The frosting uses a block of silken tofu with chocolate chips. Who would ever think to blend up tofu with chocolate chips? It’s pretty good, but I wouldn’t have called it mousse. It’s more like Jello pudding consistency, except it tastes much better. It actually tastes like chocolate.

I made the gingerbread cupcakes last week, and they fell. I was pretty sad, because I was going to give them to a family in the neighborhood that just had their 4th baby via C-section. I made them some bread and a salad, while another neighbor made some kind of casserole. (I’m a little opposed to casseroles, except for a good moussaka.) So I thought it would be nice to have a little dessert, but they just didn’t look presentable. So of course I ate them all. Or at least most of them. They had chopped up crystallized ginger in them, but it turned soft and gooey. That part was great. I love gooey. I’m going to try that recipe again and see if I can prevent the collapse.

I’m not vegan. I’m not even vegetarian. I just think it’s important for our health to consume mostly plant matter, with the occasional animal product. I have strong feelings about the treatment of animals in agribusiness, but haven’t gone all the way to not using them at all. I cook mostly vegetarian, and a lot vegan. Maybe I’m preparing for the big switch.

I think North Americans are way too dependent on meat, and it’s all psychological. People think they have to have it at every meal, and especially at dinner. I just do not agree. If it’s protein you’re worried about, there are plenty of alternatives to flesh. And I don’t just mean tofu. Why does everyone think tofu is the only thing vegetarians eat for protein? And that they always just eat it plain? I love baked, seasoned or marinated tofu. So do my kids. I also love stir-fried tempeh, mushrooms, every kind of bean on the planet, all the nuts, grains, and seeds. I could easily be vegetarian. But I’m still too lazy.

At least I know how to make a cupcake without any eggs. That skill may come in handy someday.

For the bread recipe, just be patient. Or scroll down, if you just cannot wait. First, I have to complain a little. A friend around the corner, who had a baby just 3 weeks before I did, is signed up and training for a half-marathon in April. That’s two months away. She ran 4 miles last Saturday, and I ran about 1 1/2. I am trying so hard to take it slow, even when I feel like I can keep going. This morning, I’m sure I could have kept going after my allotted 9 minutes, but I know recovery takes time. All the same, I’m so dang jealous that she’s doing a 1/2 marathon.

I think I will try for the Provo River half marathon in the middle of August, but I’m not even sure I’ll still be in Utah. We’re moving, and I think the target date is August 14th. (And we’re going to a place with no mountains. I’m not positive I will survive.) The only problem with the Provo River is those first three miles down South Fork Canyon. They’re so steep that last time I did it, my knees were trashed. I don’t usually get hurt running downhill at a normal pace, but racing…

So, although I’m jealous, I just don’t think it would be wise for me to try to get up to 13 miles by April. Maybe a 5k in April or May, and a 10k in June or July. Someday I’ll be like my crazy dad and do 50 milers all summer.

OK, here’s the bread. I love the recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for whole wheat bread. It takes 2 days, with a poolish overnight, and a soaking of some coarse ground flour. I tell ya, that is good bread. The overnight ferment makes it taste like real bread, it doesn’t dry out very fast, it has a great chewy texture, and it’s the best 100% whole wheat bread I’ve ever had. So if you want that recipe, it’s copywrited. Go buy the book. It will be worth it, plus you’ll learn all sorts of crazy chemistry that maybe you didn’t want to know.

I make another bread often that is also pretty darn good. It’s not in a cookbook, so I’m pretty sure I can share it without worrying about the bread-recipe-hit-men. I like my knees, and, as explained above, I need them in good condition.

Mine is not 100% whole grain, so it’s a little softer, but not squishy like white sandwich bread. (Does anyone else call them sammiches? I just got Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and she has recipes for sammiches. I think that’s cute.) But I do like the texture and flavor of added wheat bran. Also, it has those little speckles. Here it is:

Speckled Brown Bread

3 cups warm water
1 1/4 t instant yeast, or 1 T active dry yeast, or 1 packet yeast
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten, optional

Mix this all together (if using instant yeast, just mix, if active dry, moisten yeast in water before adding flour and bran). Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for an hour or so, till pretty bubbly. You can put in the fridge for later, or continue now. If you refrigerate it, be sure to take it out about an hour before you plan to continue, so it won’t be cold.

3 T canola oil
3 T honey, or sugar if you’re vegan
1 T salt

mix well.

Add about 2 cups all-purpose flour, or bread flour if you didn’t add gluten, and mix. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 15 minutes, adding flour as necessary. Listen to some good music, and get the kids into the kitchen to dance with you. Give them a little piece of dough to knead, and I bet they’ll be occupied for half an hour, if they don’t eat it raw. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, use the dang mixer. I think it should only take about 6 minutes in a Kitchen-Aid type thing.

Put the dough in a big, greased bowl, cover with the same piece of plastic wrap you already used (come on, try to save the planet with me) and let rise for about 2 hours, until it doubles in size.

When it’s done rising, punch it down. I like to weigh the lump and divide it exactly in two. Today, my two loaves were 835 g and 836 g, using this recipe. Knead the dough for just a minute, to get the big bubbles out, and shape into loaves. Put into greased loaf pans, cover with that same piece of plastic wrap (don’t worry, I’ll let you throw it away after this), and let rise about an hour, till the sides are peeking above the tops of the pans.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the loaves in for 30 minutes, rotate them, and bake about 15 minutes more, until they’re golden brown, sound hollow when tapped, and register 185 degrees in the middle. Just kidding, I never get out the thermometer either.

Don’t, but Do Not cut the bread until it is cool. That means at least an hour of heavenly I-made-my-own-bread aromas wafting through your house and driving your upstairs neighbors crazy before you get out that knife. If you cut it while it’s still warm, you mash up the still-denaturing proteins and get a gooey middle. Or a hole. You don’t want a sandwich bread with a hole in the middle. If you ever do get the hole, for any reason not necessarily relating to the cutting of your bread, email me and I will tell you why it happened. I’ve gotten holy bread enough times to be able to diagnose a host of problems in the bread triage.

Now, you can give one loaf to your neighbor and have a friend for life, or you can save it for toast tomorrow, because your family will eat one entire loaf for dinner tonight. Or, after it’s completely cool, you can freeze it. I don’t bother freezing anymore, since my boys always want toast for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

I just started a seed culture for some sour rye, so check back in a couple of weeks and I’ll tell you how it went.