Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Making Challah Bread

As it turned out, yesterday, I did not make bread sticks. I made Challah
bread, instead, and I had a friend on FaceBook tell me this morning that it
looks very nice. So, I thought I would not only share the pic, but the story
about it with you.

Around 3PM yesterday, I pulled up my recipe and began. Instead of giving you
the actual recipe first, like I did yesterday, I'll just give it to you as I
tell it. Ok?

So, anyway, in to a large bowl, I poured

2 cups of very warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast

I let it set for a few minutes, while I gathered up the rest of what I
needed. About 6 to 10 minutes later, I added to this mixture

1 tsp salt
1/2 cup regular white sugar

Then, I stirred it.

Next, I added, 1 cup at a time

3 cups of unbleeched all purpose flour

Some say you need Pilsbury or Hudson Cream, or King Arthur, but I'm poor so
I just have Kroger unbleeched flour that costs about $1.99 for a 5 pound

Anyway, I mixed well after each addition of flour. Then, when all 3 cups
were mixed in, I added

1 egg that I did not bother to beat
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

and mixed well.

Then, mixing after each cup, I added 3 more cups of flour. Then, I abandoned
my spoon and started mixing by hand. I ended up having to add another cup,
which makes a total of 7 cups of flour.

After mixing well, I put it on my board and kneaded for a good while. Then,
I placed it in a bowl greased with the extra virgin olive oil and turned to
coat all sides of the dough. Then, I wet a towel in hot water, rung it out
and placed it over the bowl to let the dough rise.

After an hour or so, when the dough was doubled, I dumped it bak on to my
board and separated it in to 4 balls, 2 larger than the other 2. Whatever
dough I wasn't using at the moment, I put back in the bowl under the wet
towel, cause I'm slow and didn't want the dough to dry out.

So, I took one of the larger balls of dough and separated it in to 3
sections. I rolled each section in to a long snake about 16 inches. It took
some doing, cause I'd never done that before. I will caution you to make
sure you have plenty of dough, because it will break if you are trying to
use too little.

I had my 4-year-old to hold the 3 together at one end while I started
braiding. This was the bottom of one loaf, and so I did it again with the
other larger ball of dough.

When the 2 bottoms of the loaves were placed on a parchment paper lined
baking sheet, I took one of the smaller lumps and pulled it apartin to 3
sections, braiding it the same way I did the bigger one. When it was
braided, I put it on top of one of the ones in the pan and made the top of
the second loaf. When both top braids were on the others, I tucked in the
ends, hoping it would not turn out ugly, as most of my bread does. It might
taste good but doesn't always look its best.

So, I covered the dough with a dry towel and let it rise while the oven was
warming to 375 degrees. The recipe called to bake it for 35 minutes, but
mine was done at 25, instead. And, as you can tell from the picture, it

When it comes to the taste, well, you could taste the yeast like you can in
my french bread, but this Challah bread is not something I would want to eat
soup with. It's sweet, note the 1/2 cup sugar, but it is so soft and chewy.
I would eat it as sandwich bread. I'm also thinking that next time I make
cinnamon rolls, I'll use this dough instead of the classic white bread
recipe I had been making them from. It might make a good pizza dough, as
well, but I'm not so sure I'd want my pizza that sweet. Pizza, IMHO is
supposed to be savory, not sweet. Anyway, it's very tasty with peanut butter
or just plain butter on it. It's good fresh or the next day, but pretty
crumbly the day after.

Was it good with spaghetti? Well, it came out of the oven just as we were
sitting down to eat the spaghetti, so we didn't eat them together, but it
was a wonderful after dinner treat. Notice, I didn't call it dessert, for it
wasn't sweet enough for that. I'll definitely be making it again. Wonder if
I could get good directions on how to make a round braided loaf. :)

So, I neglected to mention the spaghetti and meatballs from yesterday's
post, and that is because they did not turn out as well as I had hoped. I
don't know if hamburger does not like the slow cooker, or the sauce didn't
agree with my taste buds, or what, but I didn't like it. Neither did my
husband, but the girls ate some without complaint. At present, I have the
rest of it in a container in my fridge awaiting a new home with my
grandmother, who hopefully will like it better than we did. :)

And, just as a side note, and so you won't think I'm a total couch potato, I
did get my floor swept today. :D

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Day of Cooking

I have decided to try a new recipe in the slow cooker today. The thing is, I like to doctor things up a bit. Here is the original recipe.

Slow cooker meatballs
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 1/4 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 (28 ounce) jar spaghetti saucee
1 (16 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14.25 ounce) can tomato puree
1. In a bowl, mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, onion, and
egg. Shape the mixture into 16 meatballs.
2. In a slow cooker, mix the spaghetti sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato
puree. Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture. Cook on Low for 6 to 8

Now, here's how I'm doing it.

I didn't have parsley, fresh or dried, so left it out. I didn't have Italian bread crums, so in to the 1 1/4 cup of them, I added:

a generous amount of garlic powder

a generous amount of dried minced onion

a handful of fresh onion finely chopped

a pinch of dried oregano

a pinch of dried italian seasoning
salt and pepper

I mixed this in the bowl before adding the thawed hamburger and egg, which I did not beat. When it was mixed up as well as I could get it, I formed it in to meatballs. It made 16, but they were kind of big ones.

As for the sauce, I had a 26 ounce can of hunts 4 cheese, a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce and a can of crushed tomatoes, either 14 15 or 16 ounces, I'm not sure. I poured them all in to my slow cooker, which btw is different than a crock pot and I just learned this fact. So, anyway, I added to this tomato concoction the following:

a generous handful of garlic powder

a generous handful of dried minced onion

a handful of fresh onion chopped

3 fresh minced cloves of garlic

and will add salt and pepper to taste, later.

I put the meatballs in the sauce and swirled a spoon around to cover them with the sauce. Then, I put on the lid and washed up my dishes. :)

What am I going to eat with it? Why, spaghetti, of course. When the hubby gets home, I'll put a pot of water on to heat. I'll probably add to it a generous spoon of margerin, and 4 cups of whole grain spaghetti that I'll break before cooking. Breaking the spaghetti noodles up until they are about 4 to 6 inches long each, keeps my hubby from having to cut it up. (We aren't good noodle twirlers). Anyway, I'll cook the pasta for about 10 minutes and serve with the sauce. My 2 girls won't eat meat in their spaghetti, so I thought the meatballs would be perfect. My hubby and I can have as much as we like and the girls don't even have to eat around the meat. Hopefully, watching us eat meat and knowing we do not die from it will eventually teach them that meat is ok. :)

I'm considering making bread sticks to go with dinner, but haven't made up my mind yet. I'll use my pizza dough recipe, if I make them, but we'll see.

What I should do is sweep and mop my house...but this post is entitled "A Day of Cooking", so we'll talk about cleaning another day. :D

What I will tell you is how, as a blind person I mince garlic. I'm not exactly the safest person when it comes to knives, so I won't go in to great detail about how I chop and all. No, I'll let you read my friend's blog for that.


But, here are some tips of my own that I learned from my husband.

Take your head of garlic with the papery stuff still on it and holding it, bang it against your cutting board. You can role it in your hands as well to get the skin off. Those little things inside are called cloves, something I didn't know until a few months ago. ::D Anyway, I place a clove on my cutting boardand hold my knife, a wide bladed thing, in my right hand. I hold it so that the blade's sides are facing up and down. Then, centering it over the clove of garlic, I smash it down. Yes, I missed most of the time in the beginning, but practice makes perfect, and eventually, the clove is smashed in to submission and the papery skin comes right off. Then, I cut the smashed clove in to tiny pieces and put it in my sauce or whatever is cooking. Sometimes, I keep a paper towel beside me to place garlic skins on and to wipe my fingers on as I go. If I'm mincing a lot of garlic, I get aggravated and rinse my hands under the fosset.

So, because the 4-year-old is needing her mommy's attention, and because I need to put lotion on my hands, I'll end this cooking lesson for today. Y'all have a good monday!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Day At The WV Writer's Conference

Five days after the day at the WV Writer's Conference, and I'm still amazed at how God worked things out. Out of all the good things that happened that day, I think the most intriguing is that my husband who is not a writer was never bored. :) In fact, he mentioned going back next year for the entire weekend. I could hardly believe it. I thought about writing another poem to tell you how it went, but my rhyming is a bit off today, so we'll just stick with what I got.

We left around 10 minutes to 7 Saturday morning in the midst of a thunder storm. We went through McDonalds drive through and got a breakfast barrito (not spelled correctly) and some sweet tea. As the hubby drove, we talked, and eventually, we drove out of the rain and in to sunshine that was welcome but which would not last. We took the corect exit, but the hubby, who is bad for missing signs, missed the sign pointing to Cedar Lakes conference center, so we ended up driving through the town of Ripley. I called a friend who got us on the right track.

When we got there, we parked and went in to the dining hall, only to be told we needed to go to the visitors center to register. So, we hopped back in to the car and drove around and around until, finally, we made it to the approrpriate building. Signing in, buying our meals and finding the ladies' room didn't take too long, and soon we were looking for the assembly hall.

One thing I did not expect was the amount of people there, but that place was crowded. I registered and was given a name tag. Then, I paid for my 2 pitch sessions, one with Peter Lynch of SourceBooks, and one with Kelly Mortimer of MortimerLiterary Agency. Then, we found a seat near the front of the room.

A few minutes later, 2 agents and 2 editors sat before the crowd who sat in rows of chairs and talked about pitching, publishing, writing, and anything else that was brought up. They were very informative, and the crowd got to ask a lot of questions. I really can't remember everything they said, but I felt, when it was all over, that I had gotten to know each one of them in some way.

When that session was over, we sat in on a workshop given by Christine Witthohn of BookSense. She talked about how to do a pitch session and gave folks an opportunity to practice their pitches on her. I was too scared to try it, but I think I learned enough by watching the others succeed or fail. It was very informative, and after listening, realized I needed to tone my own pitch down.
We had lunch, after that, a cheese pizza, a bowl of potato soup, a bag of potato chips and some lemonaid. When we were finished eating, we found another restroom, then got in the car to head to the building where the pitch sessions were to be held. I spent the next thirty minutes reading over what I planned to say. I even practiced on my husband. My stomach was in knots, and I was ready to hurry and get it over with. :)

Finally, at 1:00PM we went inside and waited. I was the third person to pitch to Kelly Mortimer, and I believe it went well. After giving her my pitch, I said, "Well, I don't know what else to say."

She asked a few pointed questions, getting more of the story out of me than I would have told her. Then, she said, "Well, first, I love the color of your eyes. I wish mine were that color."

I thanked her, then she said, "Send me a partial."

I didn't have the nerve or the time to ask what in the world a partial was. :) But, told her I would. She gave me her email address, thanked me and stood to give me a hug. She seems to be a real friendly person. If you want to check out her blog, you can find it at

I was Peter Lynch's seventh person, and I felt a little more confident that time, because I knew the things Kelly had wanted to know. Turns out, he doesn't accept my genre, but he gave me his card and said to send him a query letter, anyway. He said his wife works for a publisher who does specialize in my genre and he'd forward the info to her.

So, after that, I walked out in to the sprinkling rain, and was able to breathe again. I think it took a minute for it to sink in that Kelly wanted to read part of my story, but finally, I calmed down and called a friend to give the good news.

There was a song writing workshop at 2:30, and the hubby and I sat in on that. It was pretty neet, because we got to listen as Pops Walker played his guitar and sang. There was a lady with him, but honestly, I don't remember her name. She sang real pretty, though.

At 4 that after noon, there was what they called an Appalachian Inquisition, where a panel of folks, mostly college professors and professional writers from WV answered some interesting questions. One of the questions was "Do you think there is an appalachian voice? If so, is it changing, evolving, dying or staying the same?" Most of them answered that it was evolving. The audience was allowed to ask a couple of questions, then it was over and time to get ready for the banquet at 6:30.

The banquet was really nice. Set at each place, as we went in, were plates of fruit and cheese, a salad and a dessert. They had unsweet tea and ice water to drink. Most folks ate their fruit and cheese, then the salads and the dessert before the servers could bring out the main course. :) I didn't, though. I waited until after I ate the main course before eating my strawberry cheese cake. They had either baked steak or chicken. We chose steak. There were sides of new potatoes and mixed vegies, brocooli, coliflower, and carrots. We stayed long enough to listen to the keynode speech, but I had not entered any contests, so didn't stay to hear who won.

We found the restroom for the last time, then left. On our way home, we stopped at Daniel Boone park in charleston, WV for my husband to perform a wedding for a colleague from his work. It took all of ten minutes, from arriving, to the "I do" part. :D We were home by 9:40 and in bed not long after that.

Early Sunday morning, I turned on the laptop and emailed Kelly Mortimer the prologue and first 3 chapters of my book. Monday afternoon, she replied saying that what I had sent was great and thanked me. So, I know she has it. Now I wait.

It would have been nice to stay for some of the entertainment, but, honestly, I was tired by then, and since that day, I've been sleeping like I haven't slept in a very long time. I guess I was more stressed out by the conference than I thought. It was wonderful to have Mom keep my girls all weekend, and we're talking about doing it again next year for the whole thing.

So, now you know what it was like. Please keep praying that Kelly Mortimer likes the book. Also, I need to get that query letter ready for Peter Lynch. Other than that, there isn't much else to do. The next biggest thing on my agenda is home school, and sending out the intent form, so remember us in prayer for that, as well.

Getting a bit hungry and have more email to check, and I think this post is long enough, so I'll go for now. Y'all take care and comment if you like. I love hearing from those who read the blog.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Twas The Day Before The Writer's Conference

Twas the day before the writer's conference,
And all through my house,
TV's are blearing, girls are playing,
And I'm wondering, should I wear this blouse?

The laundry is caught up,
Well, mostly I guess,
But i have all day to finish,
And another night to res'.

Still working on my manuscript,
Trying to make it my best,
My stomach's getting a bit queezy.
Feel like I'm 'bout to take a test.

Will the agent like my log line?
Will the editor be enthralled?
I've worked so hard on this book of mine,
My heart will break if it's destined to fall.

My daughters are staying the weekend with my mom.
The husband is driving me to Cedar Lakes.
Our funds are meager, it's a fact,
And if I think too much, I'll just get the shakes.

But as I sit here writing this silly poem,
I hear a voice whisper in my ear.
It's telling me to calm down.
It's assuring me, God's still here.

Back in February of 2009,
God gave me a story to write.
And if the Father gives you something to do,
He has plans to make it come out right.

He gave me the story,
All of it, in fact,
And he gave me the log line,
And the info for the back.

He will give me the words,
To say during the pitch.
If I trust him, He'll be there,
And it'll go off without a hitch.

Just so y'all know,
That's faith talking here.
I'm stepping out and believing,
I won't fall on my rear.

So on Saturday June, 12,
No matter what time of day,
Please mention me to God,
Please, for me, remember to pray.

And the log line that I have settled on, goes something like this:
Fearing he is just like his alcoholic father, a recent widower forsakes God,
and an innocent mistake forces him to face his past and his demons.