Saturday, July 10, 2010

Baking Bread

Last fall, John mentioned that he'd like to try baking bread.

"From scratch?" I asked, befuddled, since John's cooking repertoire consists little more than Chili con Carne and Cottage Pie.

'Yes,' he nodded.

"Not in one of those big bread-making machines..," I wondered out loud, terrified at the thought of losing more counter space.

"No. I'd be the bread-maker. By hand..." he retorted.

So thinking there really couldn't be any downside, for Christmas I got him a book on bread-making, all the while figuring the book would be eagerly perused for a day or so, then placed on a shelf with my cookbooks, never to be considered again.

But within a few weeks, John had accumulated all the necessary tools, a bread stone, a bowl, BREAD FLOUR (I had no idea there was such a thing) and corn meal. We even had to hunt through the supermarket to figure out where they hide the yeast (not to mention how to activate it!)

This guy...was

But would it be any good?

My husband made this bread with his own two hands!

Well, above is a photo of his second loaf of bread. Impressive, right? And even more impressive is that it looks as good as it tastes. And sometimes, when the bread comes out in a funny shape (usually crescent, we're not really sure why yet), it takes even better than it looks.

Okay. But would it last?

Well, here it is July and we've been enjoying John's bread every weekend since the beginning of the year. From basic white bread (with a slight sourdough taste) to whole wheat, his bread has become one of our great weekend rituals when we're Upstate.

And by rituals, I mean that John wakes up at 4 a.m., puts on his bread-baking outfit....

No, no. It's not like that at all...

But he does get up earlier than me. So he bakes bread while I sleep in, waking up later to the smell of freshly baking bread (which is almost as good as the smell of bacon...almost). And later we have the bread as a late morning snack, use it for sandwiches for lunch and eat with dinner.

Yeah...I could get used to this!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Here Comes The Sun...

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter...

Little darling, it feels like years since its been here...
Here comes the sun.
Here comes the sun.
And I say, it's alright.

I think I took this photo just a week (or two?) before Easter, when we had the great thaw here in the Valley. Anyway, it's been a hell of a winter -- more stormy downstate than upstate -- and tumultuous times for John and me no matter where the location.

But we're back in action. John is consulting, my public relations work has rebounded (enough to give up the retail gig - though on many levels, I miss it), I'm shopping my two spec screenplays around and in general, getting to a good place.

The best part is that we're back to spending the weekends together Upstate and we've got our focus on a few house projects, as well as exploring the area a little more. In fact, since we bought the place nearly four years ago, this may be the first summer we're able to fully embrace "Valley life" (is that what they call it?). And without my head stuck in some gigantic writing project (aka up my a**) we're going to attempt to redo the porch (perhaps our first true DIY project;) finish off the interior painting (that "the paint guy" never came back to do);) attack the goddamn milk thistle (before it attacks us); strike back at the over-growth of brambles (I've already gotten started on that) and maybe...maybe do some bike riding, (if I can convince myself that hills are my friend), more running, more hiking and buying/eating local (and I don't mean frequenting the local Taco Bell).

Stay tuned. It's good to be present. It's great to be back. :)

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pennywise at the Price Chopper

So, we noted a few months back that we were minding our pennies as of late. And for the most part, it's never really fun watching every dime you spend. But for some reason, when it came to our Price Chopper outings...well, we actually had fun (or at least a "not so terrible time.")

While not really into the coupon thing, I may challenge myself to a round of shopping using as many coupons as possible after reading about a PC-shopper who bought $96 worth of goodies for just $25. But I digress.

What I found pretty fascinating was testing out the various Price Chopper brand products (and their signature Central Market goodies) against other name brands. Overall, I'd say Price Chopper products pretty much rock. Here's a list of the items we bought from the Price Chopper brand that we liked, and the others that we'd suggest avoiding.

  • Macaroni & Cheese: I actually think this is better than the Kraft version and comes is a guilt-laden 12-pack.
  • Thick Cut Bacon: Compared to our Bacon of the Month stuff, we preferred PC's bacon goodness
  • Potato Chips: The wavy kind. It holds up well to the Heluva Good onion dip (which is a throw back/indulgence from my UVM days).
  • Stock/Broths: Same soup, different label.
  • Central Market Cereals: namely the Low Fat Granola and Museli mix
  • PC-Brand Off the Bone Ham: Not exactly a cost savings, but good quality deli meat (this from the grand-daughter of a NY-German deli man!)
  • Cheddar slices: From the dairy section
  • Central Market Pasta Sauces: Vodka, in particular. But stay away from anything that mentions Garlic in the type of sauce, it's totally sub par.
  • Central Market Skillet Meals: Wow. Had the Asian Style Pork Lo-Mein thing. Quality pork and veggies. Great if you don't feel like cooking and cheaper than take-out.
  • Dishwasher Powder: Cheap and it works.
The Not-So-Good:
  • Tomato Paste. Tasteless and damn near ruined a meal for me.
  • Paper towels. Let's face it, you gotta stick with Bounty.
  • Dishwashing liquid.Watery.
  • Price Chopper's version of food storage items are junk. It's sort of tupperware, it's sort of Glad stuff. Either way, warps in the dishwasher and doesn't seal well.
Yeah, so not a lot of clunkers.

And speaking of clunkers, the best part of the whole Price Chopper experience is their Advantage Fuel Program. We load up at the supermarket, then drive our "clunker" down to the Sunoco and fill up with our loyalty points. It's a big day when we cash in for 50 cents of EACH GALLON of gas. Seriously. What a score.

Mido inspects the goods.

2009. The List.

Nine days into the New Year, and I've been thinking about a year-end retrospective about Just Off the Taconic - the highlights, the lowlights, the in-between lights.

But in the interest in time, and the fact that the general consensus about 2009 was that it was basically crap, I've decided to just do a list of the good, the bad and the downright ugly that we experienced in no particular order, and with no explanation. I'll leave it to you, good readers, to figure out what lies in which category.
  • Hummingbirds
  • Bacon of the Month
  • Taghkanic Tomorrow
  • Farting deer
  • Wildflowers
  • Rain
  • Ore Pit Pond
  • Smokefest
  • Tree removal
  • Carpenter bees
  • Hummer-drivers
  • Musk thistle
  • Miller's Tavern
  • Nancy's Spicy Coleslaw
  • TSL
  • ZBA
  • The Kanagas
  • Moosehead Tavern
  • Snowshoeing
  • Groundhog
  • Price Chopper Fuel Advantage
  • Columbia County Democratic Caucus
  • Gun Clubs
  • Chatham Brewery
  • Golf
  • Cluster flies
  • Local corn
  • Beebe Hill
And here's to just getting on with things in 2010.