Out of the Box

Getting creative with Christianity, crafting, cooking, copious usage of alliteration, and the rest of my life

*insert famous Terminator line here* October 10, 2010

Crazy how life can get so busy. Speaking of which, I should be either sleeping or college-apping right now, but who cares about common sense? 😛

In my long absence, I have knitted a hat (very purple and only slightly misshapen), learned to cable stitch, made play-dough, failed epically at creative methods of gift delivery, and discovered that I can make bagels and pita with the same dough I’ve been using to make bread. Yum – to the last part, that is; yarn doesn’t taste that great, but hey, no need to take my word for it. With enough hot fudge topping, who knows what could happen? DELETE. 😛

Also, love, or at least the uncontrollable insanity we tend to call by that name, all too often means putting the other person’s happiness first. Sometimes this is enjoyable, sometimes not. But if you’re not willing to do it anyway, then… well, what kind of love is it if you’re more worried about yourself?

Also #2, life is confusing. I’m not sure how much of this is adolescence and how much of it is going to follow me into adulthood.

Is happiness just a front, just something to cover the underlying problems that don’t go away?…

No. Somehow the two manage to coexist; it makes neither aspect less real. And life is a beautiful and dysfunctional thing all at the same time. I have no idea how this works, but if it made sense it would be much less interesting.

I wouldn’t change any of it. I’ll come out of it stronger and wiser… I hope.


Life is better (and yummier) July 15, 2010

Filed under: Adventures in Toronto,Culinary Stuff — Grace @ 12:17 am

Things are starting to look up.

I’m finally teaching ESL. My “class” consists of a mother and daughter. Both of them are much better at English than had been implied. The mother needs practice with listening and speaking, while her daughter needs practice with reading and writing, so it’ll be interesting figuring out how to help them both. Monday afternoon I met with them for the first time, accompanied by Gloria (the pastor’s daughter), who translated as needed. We went to a mall near their house and, when the library was too crowded (yes, there was a library inside a mall), we found a table in the food court. It worked just fine. I spent most of that time conversing with the mother; she seemed to do fine, and I’m not exactly sure how to help her further. The daughter spent most of her time with Gloria working with her on writing. I met them again Wednesday, same time and place, this time without Gloria. Thank goodness for Google. It’s helping me a lot with ideas.

Taking the subway home after Monday’s ESL lesson, I had some adventures. I hadn’t slept the night before because I was trying to figure out what to teach (or that was my original intention, but never mind), so naturally I was tired. There were quite a few stations between my current location and my destination, so I thought, “I’ll just nap for a while. I’m sure I’ll wake up on time.” I woke up to hear the name of a station I had never heard of. Turns out I went much farther than planned. 😛

I got on the subway heading the opposite direction and went back to where I was supposed to be, no problem, but somehow managed to take a different exit from the one I normally took. I came out with no idea where I was. I knew I was on the right street, but not which direction to go or how far away from the house I was. Eventually I realized that I was right across the street from where I normally exit, so you can imagine how intelligent I felt. Remind me to look at landmarks across the street every now and then so I won’t get confused and panic. 😛

For Wednesday’s lesson, the adventure was in getting there. I got to the right subway station, but all of the signs directing us to the buses talked about buses going along the wrong street. So I thought, “Okay, I’ll just go out onto the right street and find a bus stop.”

I walked for half an hour before I found one.

I then got off the bus a little earlier than I was supposed to because I was worried about going too far by mistake, but that worked out all right because I met a man who needed directions. From me? Well, I guess he was desperate. I actually knew what to tell him, because he was headed for the same street I was. Anyway, that’s one positive thing that came from the craziness. I arrived at my destination much later than I had planned. 😛

Oh – bread. As regular readers probably know, I tried baking sourdough bread before with limited success. (I found out that it might have been because my starter was too new, but that’s another story.) Discouraged, I decided to try regular yeast bread. Crazy girl that I am, I refuse to use any white flour if I can avoid it, but rather than substitute whole wheat flour into a regular recipe, or use a “whole wheat” recipe that called for a mixture of white and whole wheat, I got smart and looked for a recipe designed specifically for all whole wheat flour. I found one.

My first attempt went pretty well, but after baking I decided to ensure it was done by cutting one of the loaves in half. I was disappointed to see that part of it looked uncooked, so I baked it a while longer. And longer. And longer. When nothing changed after about an hour of additional baking, I finally gave up. What the heck. I’ll eat it like it is, I thought. Much to my surprise, after cooling for a while, it looked completely normal. I found out that bread cooks for a while after it’s out of the oven, so the appearance of the center was probably normal. The bread was good; it was somewhat dry, and needed something spread on it to make it really good, but people liked it anyway.

Anyway, I tried again Tuesday, this time trusting that it was done after the recommended baking time. I wrapped it in a damp cloth to keep the crust soft and left it alone for a while. After resisting the temptation for a while, I finally gave in and ate a slice.

It was soooo good. Not dry at all, but moist and chewy and delicious. It didn’t need anything on it. Neither did the next slice. 😛 I don’t know if the better quality was due to not being horrendously overdone, or because I substituted the molasses in the original recipe with honey instead of just leaving it out, or both, but whatever. It was good. Very good. And now I’m fighting the urge to eat more.

ALSO. Last Thursday, Gloria, Anna and I went to a mall (not the one where I’m teaching ESL). And there I saw…

A WalMart sign

This is the first WalMart I’ve seen since coming to Canada. And it was part of a mall. Wow.

Life is interesting. 🙂


More Fun with Sourdough June 22, 2010

Filed under: Culinary Stuff — Grace @ 8:51 pm

Wow… days of doing nothing, and now two posts in one day? Either I’m going crazy or I’m on the road to recovery from this lazy week of constant sleeping and not much else. The next thing you know I’ll be doing my summer service requirement… YIKES! (Actually, I hope that’s what happens!)

Anyway, if you read my first post about sourdough, you might remember that I was having some problems with the “sponge.” It ended up not working at all, so I had to throw it out. I then prepared some bigger jars, hoping they would hold enough starter to bypass the sponge stage altogether. I didn’t have time to test it out at home, though, so I took the original small jar and two big ones, stuffed them with various soft things, carefully packed them into my suitcase, and took them to Canada.

They got here safely, and I gave things another try. Luckily, the big jars do hold enough starter to skip the sponge step, so I was able to actually make dough… and turn it into bread. VICTORY! It turned out pretty well. Not great, but good. I don’t have any pictures, unfortunately.

Things I’ve discovered: It’s okay to use tap water (at least here). And flour and water measurements don’t have to be exact; just play with it until you get the right consistency (like pancake batter). As a matter of fact, less precise measurements gave me two jars of starter that didn’t form layers of liquid on top and seemed to be ready faster. It was a little thicker than what I would have gotten using equal amounts. Maybe thicker is better.

Also, I don’t think my starter likes all-purpose flour very much. I tried to feed it with that and it didn’t work well. (I ended up throwing out that jar’s contents.) Whole wheat works better for me.

Top view of a jar of sourdough starter

This is a jar of my starter.

See how it’s all bubbly on top? That means it’s ready. I could start another batch of dough right now if I wanted to. And it’s tempting.

Someday I’ll have to get a GIGANTIC glass jar and make huge batches of bread if necessary. But my waistline wouldn’t thank me. I’ve made it angry enough already. 🙂

I baked my second loaf of sourdough bread today! I managed to get it into a better shape this time… but undercooked it. Darn. I’ll put it back into the oven when I have the energy to do something other than sit around with my laptop.

Additional tips: Wrapping it in a damp towel made the crust softer than last time, which was nice.

A loaf of sourdough bread

Isn't it pretty?

Yay, the blog’s first pictures! I wonder what it says about me that they’re of food… haha. Many thanks to the ladies of my church for this camera!


Fun with Sourdough June 11, 2010

Filed under: Culinary Stuff — Grace @ 4:34 am

With the free time I’ve had since school ended, I’ve decided to give sourdough bread a second try. Let me try to give a brief explanation of the process: Before you can bake sourdough bread, you have to combine flour and water and let it ferment so you’ll have sourdough starter. This is what gives sourdough bread its distinctive taste.

I tried this once in the past, but it didn’t work that time. Thankfully, things have been going better this time around.

I followed the basic method described on this page with the following adaptations: I used all-purpose whole wheat flour and didn’t bother warming the water I used, as I think that in the past I made the water too hot and killed the yeast or something like that. Things that the above page doesn’t mention that I found elsewhere: Don’t use tap water, as it might contain chemicals that can mess up your starter; don’t use metal utensils to stir the starter, as this can also mess it up somehow. (I should add that I did stir with a metal spoon for a minute before I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to do that, and it didn’t seem to hurt anything. Maybe I’ll try making another batch with tap water and see if it still works.)

It was ridiculously easy – I just mixed equal amounts of flour and water in a clean glass jar, covered the jar with plastic wrap held in place with a rubber band, and put it in a warm place out of direct sunlight. (A more precise description of the process can be found at the page linked to above.) I was supposed to feed it the day after I started it, but I didn’t. It didn’t need me, though; after about a day and a half, it looked great with no feeding or interference of any kind.

So anyway, I have starter now, but I haven’t been able to make any bread yet. While attempting to make the “sponge,” I added more flour/water than was advised to make up for a lower volume of starter. I also tried to warm the water and may have hurt the process by making it too hot, which is why I’m not going to try heating water anymore. As a result of one or both of these things, my sponge showed almost no change even after almost a full day, when it was supposed to take only a few hours. To give it an additional boost, I made more starter and added some of it to the bowl of attempted sponge, and the sponge seems to be coming along now. It’s not ready yet, but the last time I checked, a layer of liquid had formed on top and there were a few bubbles – in other words, it looks about like my two batches of starter looked like the nights before they were fully ready, so maybe I’ll be able to bake bread tomorrow!

Anyway, if you like to cook you should definitely try this. If I get to try to bake sourdough bread, I’ll tell you how it goes. Now to figure out a way to get a jar of starter to Canada… haha.