Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wulfie and the Soldier Boy

So Jack died. I already covered that. Brian and Caroline upgraded to a Swagger Wagon, and were nice enough to sell me one of their cars. He's a 2003 VW Jetta, Wolfsburg edition. I've named him Wolfgang, Wulfie for short. A good, strong, German name. He's great. A nice, quiet, smooth ride. It has a factory-installed CD player, that may not appeal to the criminal element around here and prevent it from getting stolen. We'll see. They might break in after they see what is right underneath... a tape deck! I know. Awesome, right? I hadn't noticed it until my ride home from work today. When I got home, I looked around and found an unlabeled black cassette tape on one of my bookshelves. Now, I haven't had a cassette player in a decade, give or take a few years. I'm not 100% sure on that timeline, but I do know that it has been a good long while. There have been at least 5 or 6 moves since then. And for some reason I still have it here in Arizona. I was so psyched to find out what was on it that I went out and listened to the first bit of Side A.

Here's the lineup so far:

Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
When I think about Angels - Jamie O'Neal
Te Aviso, Te Anuncio - Shakira

Any guesses as to what the remaining songs will be? I don't see the pattern yet, but I'm sure the whole tape is great.

Back to the car. It has a beepy thing to open the doors, automatic windows, an automatic transmission, cruise control, a speedometer that goes up to 160 mph, and a full spare. Which is good, because I totally ripped one in public on the way home from LA. Ripped a tire, that is. Yeah, I was pulling into a gas station and there was a truck pulling a trailer taking up the middle of the entrance, and I thought I had enough room to get by. I hit the curb, and just knew. I pulled forward to the pump, got out and just looked at the tire. Some kid pointed out that it was flat. Thanks kid. It was a really busy gas station, so I decided to pull away from the pumps to change my tire. There was a nice handicapped spot directly ahead of me, so I pulled forward. I got out and looked at the tire again. Sighed, and then figured out how to pop my trunk.

I pulled out the spare (yay for full spares!), and the jack. I tried to figure out how to remove the bolt covers (because my new car is hip like that). My brother-on-law Ben taught me how to change a tire years ago, but the bolt covers must have left me with a helpless look on my face. A nice soldier dude (Air Force, I think) offered to help me. He went and got a screwdriver and took off the bolt covers while I started figuring out my new jack. It didn't take very long to get the spare on. I thanked the nice soldier man, and filled the air in the spare with the air hose that happened to be right in front of that particular parking space.

Driving off into the sunset never felt better!

Here's a side-shot of Wulfie. Isn't he fun!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The most comforting smell on the planet...

Ah, the smell of bread baking... Is there anything that is more homey and comforting?

My claim of domestic-goddesshood rarely goes challenged. There are many women out there with skills, but few who rival my own when it comes to things domestic. Okay, not really, but you do have to admit that I do have some skills worth bragging about. But I do have a friend named Debbie who is even more talented than myself in many of the aspects of domesticity. She comes by her amazing talent honestly seeing as how her mom, Jeannie, is pretty amazing as well. She put together Debbie's wedding cake, and I can say that it was THE most amazing piece of food art I have ever, ever, ever seen. My mom and I make wedding cakes, true, but we are just hobbyists. We are not really cake perfectionists. Our generally accepted rule of thumb is that if a mistake cannot be seen from the back of a galloping house, it's not enough to worry about. Jeannie's creation was perfect. Huge and perfect. Huge, perfect, and beautiful.

I'm not sure I have all the facts right, but I'm sure the story went something like this:

Jeannie got frustrated with the dense, dark whole wheat bread that resulted from the recipes in the cookbooks, so she slaved and toiled in her kitchen until, after years of trial and error, she came up with something better. Light, fluffy, delicious. I first had a taste at Debbie's house. She has shared the recipe with me several times. Several times, because I keep losing the ones she gives me. Partially because I love all of you, but mostly so I won't lose it again, I'm going to post it here on my blog. Debbie said as long as I give credit where credit is due, I was welcome to make this recipe public. To make it the way Debbie does, you need a wheat grinder and the amazing guts that are found inside a Bosch mixer.

The following has been brought to you by the kitchen wizardry of Jeannie Prete:

"The Yummiest Wheat Bread on the Planet!"

Place the following in the bowl of a mixer:

1 cup Potato Flakes
1 1/2 cup Oatmeal
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/3 cup Honey
1 cup sunflower seeds or grains (optional)
4 cups hot water

Mix a little and then add:

3 Tablespoons active dry yeast

Let proof for 5 minutes.

While you wait grind 4 1/2 cups of wheat. (This ends up being somewhere in the vicinity of 7 1/2-8 cups or so of flour)

Add to mixture (it should be a bit bubbly):

3 cups of the flour you just ground
1 Tablespoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil.

Turn on the mixer and slowly add the rest of the flour you just ground.

Mix for 10 minutes. Yes, I know its a long time. Just set a timer and go and do something else. This long mixing time is crucial for the loaf to turn out light and fluffy. This is where the Bosch mixer really shines. I used to have a Kitchenaid. I tried to make bread in it, but the dough just tended to stick on the dough hook and get a ride around the bowl. Entertaining, yes. Effective, no.

After 10 minutes of mixing, form the dough into loaves and place in bread pans. This would make 3 big loaves, 4 medium loaves, or 8 small loaves. Approximately. The dough is very sticky, and will seem wetter than the dough made with other recipes. If you'll grease your hands before you work with the dough, you'll have an easier time working wit it.

Butter the tops of the loaves, and let them rise until the dough doubles in size.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. If you take a loaf out of the pan and tap the bottom, it should sound hollow. And it should be a pretty golden brown color. That's how I tell if they've baked long enough.

Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan. The bread will come out of the pan much easier if you let it sit first. Turn out onto a cooling rack and let sit until completely cool. Don't wrap them in plastic until they are completely cool. Otherwise, the steam will collect and make the outside of the bread mushy. Mushy = bad.

There you have it folks. Enjoy.

Here are some pictures I took tonight:

Here is my wheat being ground into flour. I used hard white wheat. White wheat has a bit milder taste than the red wheat. Plus, I have a 45 lb bucket of it in my pantry.

Here is the bin of freshly ground flour. There was a late-night incident involving myself, a piece of cardboard, and a bottle of gorilla glue. Its a fairly entertaining story that I will save for another day. The result is that the Magic Mill that I got from my grandma doesn't produce flour as fine as it should. As a result, I have to grind 5 cups of wheat berries to produce the same volume of flour (for this recipe) that Debbie can produce with 4 1/2. I think she has a WhisperMill, or MagicMill, or somesuch.

Here is a fairly low-quality picture of the bubbles the yeast made in the ingredients that were mixed before any flour was added.

This is what the dough looks like after it has mixed for 10 full minutes.

I was able to make 4 little loaves and 2 medium-sized loaves with one recipe of dough.

They rose beautifully. I haven't made anything with yeast since I moved in, so I was a bit nervous that my yeast had died in my freezer.

Here are my happy little loaves, all golden-brown and delicious. Well, I'm assuming they're delicious. I actually binged on pizza and bread pudding tonight, so I haven't actually tried any yet. I'm looking forward to breakfast tomorrow!

This is the least brick-like whole grain bread that you will ever taste! Thanks again to Debbie and Jeannie!

Friday, February 11, 2011

My $100 miracle

I was pretty crazy about couponing when I was in Provo. I still am at heart, but I haven't had the time to keep up on it. I'll get around to it one of these days. It takes quite a few hours to get organized, but then only takes a few hours each week to keep up with the coupons. I'll blog about the whole process at some point in case any of you turn out to be that particular flavor of crazy as well. It's pretty fun, if you're into that sort of thing. Getting away with 70% savings at the grocery store gives me quite the rush. Right. Back to the story.

So back in my couponing heyday of yester-month, I signed up for a whole passel of couponing newsletters. I still get the newsletters and occasionally sort through my un-clipped coupon stash for a specific coupon so I can get a few jars of peanut butter for $0.50. For example.

Anyhoo, a few weeks ago there was a notice saying that there was going to be a market survey in Scottsdale and we were all invited to put in our information (Marital status, number of people in my household, etc...) to see if they needed someone from our demographic to fill up the study. I've done a few of these and they usually pay fairly well for a few hours of work, so I filled it out. A few days later I got a very polite email saying that they were full and didn't need me. Ah well. C'est la vie.

A few days later I got a phone call from them asking if I had received an email. I told them that I had and that It had said that they didn't need me. I had a sudden burst of excitement that maybe someone backed out and they had an opening to fill. Alas, twas not to be. They just hadn't written down who all was coming so some pore sap had to make a bajilion phone calls to find out.

A few days after that I got another phone call saying that they did want me after all. So Monday after work I drove up to Scottsdale. As it turns out, it was a market survey for a brand of bagged salad. Fresh something or another. They took six of us into a room, gave us each a bag of salad. As instructed, we looked carefully at the packaging before we got to eat some. They had my favorite kind of salad dressing (Brianna's Honey Poppyseed) and that made it even better. The salad was actually pretty good. We went around the table and talked about our collages and what we did and didn't like about the salad. Oh yeah, we had homework. We each made a collage about bagged salad. It was pretty great, in a scissors and gluestick kind of way. Then we went into the other room where there were six women who had only heard about the salad. We talked about it with them, and then the people in charge asked them what they thought about what we had told them. And so on and so forth. After a few hours of this they gave us $100 each in cash.

It was pretty great. So I hopped in my little green truck and started to drive home. I had been noticing all day that I had to gas it pretty hard to get going. And even when it could, it sounded like it was revving more than normal. But, what's a girl to do. I just kept going, hoping to make it home.

But fate was not smiling on my truck. I was fairly close to home, but still on the freeway, when there ceased to be going, and was only revving when I put pressure on the gas. Since I knew there were problems a brewing underneath my hood, I was sticking in the righ-hand lanes. I was able to pull over just fine.

I sat in the seat for a bit, putting the truck in and out of gear, revving the engine, hoping it would catch enough to go. Then I popped the hood and checked the oil. It was low. My truck has pretty much reached drinking age, as it were. I remedied this problem, and then tried going again. Not really surprising, but the transmission had little to do with the fact that my oil level was a little low. But it was worth a shot. The transmission fluid wasn't low.

A highway patrolman pulled over to let me know that if my truck stayed on the freeway past 6 AM that it would be towed. I assured him that I would have it gone by then. I then looked up tow-companies nearby on my Android phone. Hooray for smartphones! I was even able to look up reviews on Google to make sure I was calling a reputable place. I found one that I felt comfortable with and they showed up in less than 30 minutes. The nice tow guy jacked Jack onto the back of his flatbed tow-truck and we dropped him off at my mechanic.

The charge for the loading and towing came to $73.50. I didn't have that much in my checking account, seeing as how I had just purchased a couple of tickets to Comic-Con on Saturday. I couldn't transfer money from my savings account right there. But wait! I had $100 dollars cash in my pocket. It's was a February miracle! Ok, perhaps not. It was pretty amazing either way.

I called a friend (my new Comic-Con buddy) and she took me home. The mechanic looked at my transmission. The hydraulics aren't gone, but it still needs quite a bit of TLC. I may fork out the cash to fix it, or I may invest that money in something a little more reliable. Right now, I'm ejoying the joys that are public transportation. Seeing as how my work bought me a bus pas that's good until August, this inconvenience is costing me a little bit of time, but not any additional money.

Good times.