Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Request for Hummus

One of the best parts of this blog has been reading and replying to comments from readers; and most recently receiving requests for recipes from friends.  Cooking is a way that I connect with people.  It’s something that I can do as a gift, or as a way to build a friendship, or to show love to friends and family.  Often when I am cooking for someone, I am also thinking about that person while I’m chopping the onions and garlic, stirring the veg in the pan, or tasting for final seasoning.  It makes cooking more than just putting ingredients together for a meal, but it gives me time to also think about the person or people that I’m cooking for.  Its’ an act of love, not just of eating.  So when friends request recipes from me I take it as the highest compliment.

It is therefore a great joy that in a couple of upcoming posts I will be sharing a couple of recipes requested from friends who are distant in geography but close in my thoughts.  The first recipe I’ll be sharing is for hummus.  Hummus is one of those foods that is super simple to make, irks me to buy premade, and is incredibly personal in how you prepare it.  The two greatest influences for me in my hummus was the first time I was taught to make it in Beirut, as well as from my experiences in Turkey.  In Beirut, the friend who taught me to make it created an amazingly herbaceous version, speckled throughout with finely chopped parsley.  In Turkey I was most influenced by our amazing excavation chef, Necmi, who guarded his culinary secrets dearly, but whose hummus was incredibly silky and redolent with garlic and tahini.

Then there was Iowa… Not a statement that normally follows a genealogy of hummus.  But it was in Iowa that I was able to expand my initial anthropology of food course into a series of courses, spanning food production and politics; to the cultural expressions of food and identity.  It didn’t make sense to me to teach a course on food and not get to taste or prepare food to share in class.  So for those classes, especially, I tried to make sure that I brought food to share with my students, and in a couple of cases (some more successful than others) to make food with the class on campus.

One of the most successful cases of this was with my Food Politics class when we spent one class meeting in the college kitchens making ricotta cheese and pizza dough for our own white pizzas. This isn’t just a “fluff” exercise, but it takes the intellectual side of talking about a subject and makes it real by actually touching, preparing, sharing and eating food together.

For this particular class it happened that I had a couple of students who were lactose intolerant and I didn’t want to leave them out.  So I started thinking of the bare pizza dough, fired in the oven, what would go well with it?  Hummus…  Make the pizza dough into a spiced flat bread, serve it with the freshly prepared hummus and you’ve got a rock star food to share.  So that’s what we did; made pizza bianca with the homemade dough and ricotta, as well as a meze of hummus and flat bread.  I was greatly impacted by many of the students from that class, and it’s been great to keep in touch with them as they graduated (or will soon!) from college and we’ve moved up north.  This recipe was requested by one of those students, but she and her friend were inseparable and therefore I can’t bring myself to dedicate this hummus to one without the “other” (anthro humor there… sorry…).  Chelsea and Becca, this is for you ladies.

As you will see with this recipe, basic hummus is a great blank canvas for a myriad of flavors.  I’ve added smoked paprika for a little Spanish flare, spinach for some extra greenery in a form that my son will eat (sometimes), or roasted red bell pepper for a different savory taste.  The sky (and your imagination) are the limit here, so feel free to whip up a batch and personalize it to your tastes.

I like to serve hummus in a shallow bowl, with a depression at the top to hold a little golden olive oil, and a sprinkling of paprika over top.

I like to serve hummus in a shallow bowl, with a depression at the top to hold a little golden olive oil, and a sprinkling of paprika over top.

Hummus

Ingredients:

2 garlic clove (or more to taste)
2 (15 oz) cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3-4 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed) paste
3-4 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. salt
Approximately ½ cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Drop the garlic one clove at a time into a running food processor through the feed tube.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
    Dropping garlic into the feed tube.

    Dropping garlic into the feed tube.

    Scrape down the sides of the bowl so you don't lose any of that garlicky goodness.

    Scrape down the sides of the bowl so you don’t lose any of that garlicky goodness.

  2. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the olive oil and pulse until the ingredients are mixed but still a bit rough.

    A rough mix of ingredients.

    A rough mix of ingredients.

  3. Then turn the processor on and through the tube slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin, steady stream until you get the desired creamy consistency.

    A smooth, creamy hummus.

    A smooth, creamy hummus.

  4. Taste and adjust for seasoning.  Blend the hummus again.  Taste.  Blend.  Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of Marie’s Hummus recipe.

A perfect dish for sliced flatbread, fresh veges, or even as a "sauce" for sandwiches.

A perfect dish for sliced flatbread, fresh veges, or even as a “sauce” for sandwiches.

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Leprechaun Games – Day 3

We reached the end of our Leprechaun Games adventures on Monday, the official date for St. Patrick’s Day.  Little Man had successfully found six coins through the Leprechaun Cloud and Magic Treasure Stones activities.  Now on this last day of the treasure hunt, he awoke to find that the leprechauns had returned over night to hide the final installment of three coins.  This time they had hidden three coins under three rainbows in the living room.  Just between you and me, the original plan of the leprechauns was to hide the coins and rainbows outside but St. Patrick’s Day ended up being a bone-chilling cold and rainy day.  Therefore the leprechauns took pity on us and left the booty in the nice, warm, dry house.

One leprechaun showing where the coin was going to be hidden in the rainbow of cups.

One leprechaun showing where the coin was going to be hidden in the rainbow of cups.

The first rainbow was found on the living room table crafted out of Little Man’s rainbow cups.  He found this one quickly since the leprechauns used their favorite color green cup as the hiding place.

Little Man found the hidden coin quickly.

Little Man found the hidden coin quickly.

The rainbow and coin hidden inside the castle tent.

The rainbow and coin hidden inside the castle tent.

The second rainbow was hidden inside Little Man’s castle/tent.  He was relieved that the resident dragon (aka really fluffy cat) hadn’t snuck into the castle to play with the treasure.

Little Man with rainbow in hand and recovered coin by his foot.  Teddies at the ready to protect from the dragon-cat.

Little Man with rainbow in hand and recovered coin by his foot. Teddies at the ready to protect from the dragon-cat.

The third and last rainbow was one drawn by the leprechauns on Little Man’s art easel.  The plan was to give us an art project for later on in the day, and a chance to talk about rainbows, their colors and the mixing of primary colors.

The final rainbow drawn by the leprechauns on Little Man's easel for coloring later.

The final rainbow drawn by the leprechauns on Little Man’s easel for coloring later.

Once the last three coins were recovered, they were set aside in a fittingly green dish to wait until nap time.  (Now you will notice that at this point in the post there are near to no pictures.  That is because I seem to have lost my camera.  Wah!  More pictures will be forthcoming, but those of the final part of this adventure are gone.  You’ll just have to use your imagination.)

On the way to his bedroom for nap time, Little Man set up the letter and the coins for the leprechauns.  We retrieved his leprechaun letter and rolled the coins back up, leaving it all on his little stool.  When Little Man awoke, his first request was for his toy samurai and the second was to go and see what his leprechaun reward was.  I’m not sure if he thought he needed samurai protection from the leprechauns?  When he got to the stool Little Man found that the letter was unrolled, and on top of it rested a small, wooden treasure chest.  The chest was filled with leprechaun gold, and the letter thanked him for playing with the leprechauns and that they’d be back again next year.  They also welcomed him to look for them at the end of a rainbow whenever he wanted.

The treasure chest was a huge hit, and Little Man was quite impressed that he got so many “golden” coins.  Last night the treasure chest “slept” in the castle/tent so that it would be safe from dragons.  The bottom of the chest was decorated by the leprechauns with his name, a rainbow and the date.  Now I think he’s just plotting what to do the next time he sees a rainbow, and on the island he might not have to wait too long for.

The dragon lurks outside of the castle dreaming of treasure... or at least a quiet, dark place for a nap.

The dragon lurks outside of the castle dreaming of treasure… or at least a quiet, dark place for a nap.

Leprechaun Games – Day 2

On Day 2 of our Leprechaun Games (inspired by Fun at Home with Kids), Little Man awoke to find that the leprechauns had returned to continue the search for gold game (Read about Day 1 here).  This time he was met with a tray of “Magic Treasure Stones.”  We took the Treasure Stones to the table (with copious towels and clean water again) for him to “excavate.”

One Treasure Stone

The basis of the Treasure Stones is the awesome fizzy reaction that happens when you combine baking soda with vinegar.  It can make science fair volcanoes explode, and Magic Treasure Stones erode away to reveal hidden treasure.  For our purposes we repurposed an empty mustard container that I had set aside for future water table activities, and filled it full of plain, white vinegar.  This activity takes a good amount of vinegar, so you may need to stock up… I did.

Spraying the Treasure Stones with "magic water" aka white vinegar.

Spraying the Treasure Stones with “magic water” aka white vinegar.

Little Man squirted the Magic Treasure Stones with the vinegar (aka “cloud water”) and watched as they fizzed and foamed, slowly revealing their treasure.  Three of the stones contained “golden” coins, and two contained “sea gems” (aka glass blobs).  He had a great time smashing the partially eroded stones and rinsing the coins off in the water.  In fact, I think he would have been happy simply with the coins and the dish of water.  I’ll have to keep that in mind for future water table activities as the weather gets warmer…

Over the course of the rest of the day, he played with his “treasure” and we talked about leprechauns, rainbows and golden coins.  He went to bed after rereading his letter from the leprechauns, excited about the search for the last three coins, and what the leprechauns would give him when he completed their game.

Now we two leprechauns need to plot our last installment of the Leprechaun Games, as well as a delicious St. Patrick’s Day dinner.  After all, a good game needs a good dinner to pull it all together.

Here’s how I made the Magic Treasure Stones:

Equipment:
1 large glass baking dish, or clear plastic tub (like for sensory play)
1 box baking soda
Green glitter and shamrock confetti
Green Finger Paint (Color Safe)
3 “Golden” Coins
Assorted sensory fun like glass beads
2 tbsp. water, plus extra
2 cups white vinegar
Squeeze bottle

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl mix together the baking soda, green glitter and confetti, and a good squeeze of your color safe green finger paint.
    All the equipment needed.

    All the equipment needed.

    The "dry" ingredients.

    The “dry” ingredients.

    A good squirt of color safe finger paint.

    A good squirt of color safe finger paint.

  2. Drizzle the 2 tbsp. of water over the mixture and give it a good stir to evenly distribute the water.  Then add one more good squirt of the finger paint and stir again.  The mixture should look pretty dry.  This reminded me of making a pie crust or scone dough.  You don’t think it will hold together, but it will.  Test your mixture by grabbing a handful and forming it into a rough ball.  If it won’t hold its shape, then drizzle in a little more water until they just hold their shapes.
    The mixture will look very dry, like it won't hold together.  Just have faith.

    The mixture will look very dry, like it won’t hold together. Just have faith.

    A last dose of paint for a little more color.

    A last dose of paint for a little more color.

    The mixture will just hold together when formed into "magic balls."

    The mixture will just hold together when formed into “magic balls.”

  3. Finish your first “stone” by inserting one of the golden coins into the stone and forming it again.  Carefully set this stone aside in the glass baking dish.

    A Magic Treasure Ball.

    A Magic Treasure Ball.

  4. Divide the rest of the mixture into four portions in the bowl, and continue forming treasure stones and inserting the treasure until all five balls are completed.

    Set them aside into the same tray you will use to "excavate" them.

    Set them aside into the same tray you will use to “excavate” them.

  5. Set the stones aside some place safe and allow them to dry overnight.  You want the balls to be nice and dry for the best reaction with the vinegar.
  6. When you are ready to go, please the stones somewhere that your little one can find them.  I recommend leaving these in the baking dish rather than scattering them around.  They are fragile.

    We posed the Treasure Stones for Aiden on his little stool and with a rainbow that he'd made with his music teacher.

    We posed the Treasure Stones for Aiden on his little stool and with a rainbow that he’d made with his music teacher.

  7. When you are ready to excavate, fill your squeeze bottle with the vinegar and show your little one how to spray the treasure stones.  The stones will fizz and slowly erode to reveal the treasure within.  Your kids will likely enjoy smashing the opened, softened stones, so be sure to have towels and clean water handy.
    Spraying the Treasure Stones with "magic water" aka white vinegar.

    Spraying the Treasure Stones with “magic water” aka white vinegar.

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    Squashing eroded Treasure Stones.

    Squashing eroded Treasure Stones.

    Retrieving the treasure.

    Retrieving the treasure.

    Treasure in the sludge.

    Treasure in the sludge.

  8. Rinse off your treasure and the three additional golden coins.  Have fun!

Click here for a printable version of the Magic Treasure Stones “recipe.”

Rinsing off the treasure was more fun than finding it in the first place.

Rinsing off the treasure was more fun than finding it in the first place.

Leprechaun Games

There is something about St. Patrick’s Day that a lot of us want to celebrate, but we somehow feel slightly embarrassed to do so.  I’ve read post after post of people apologizing for getting into the spirit, and now I’m adding myself to the list.  St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t have the same gravitas as Easter, it certainly isn’t as mainstream as Christmas or birthdays, but it has its own quirky fun and falls at a time when many of us are starving for springtime and a bit of color (or at least some Guinness).

In upstate New York we lived just down the street from a little Irish pub, and every year for St. Patrick’s Day we would walk down the street with friends for some corned beef and cabbage… and Guinness.  This usually meant trudging through a couple of feet of snow to get down the avenue, but it was worth it for the food, Guinness and companionship that this holiday meant.  One year this also included me wearing an entire tray of Guinness pints spilled by a frazzled server.  The walk home that year was a cold one, but we laughed for most of it as the fumes of freezing Guinness wafted off of my jeans as we snow plowed home.  I looked forward to this tradition (not the wearing Guinness part) every year, and it is still at this time of year especially that I think of those friends in NY now with their own small family too.

This year, I wanted to find a way to make St. Patrick’s Day fun for Little Man.  I know that by the time I post these ideas the holiday will be here, so it makes it hard to plan any of these activities in advance.  If you want to try any of these, just think of it as stretching the holiday over the course of the week (or beyond).  I don’t know about you all, but I’m in the mood for a party.

In my quest for Little Man-geared St. Patrick’s Day activities, I came across an idea from Fun at Home with Kids.  In her post, Asia shared a great idea for a series of activities for kids building off a letter from a leprechaun inviting her daughter to search for leprechaun gold.  This was just the sort of thing I was looking for, and I’ve followed a couple of Asia’s ideas here and added a few of my own.  Please check out her excellent post for more details and other ideas too.

We started our adventure today, two days before St. Patrick’s Day to get into the mood.  To start, when Little Man came to the breakfast table today he was greeted by a rolled up letter from leprechauns (Dave didn’t want to be left out) inviting him to join in a game of searching for gold.  Click here for a “recipe” for this letter and to start the Leprechaun Games.  The leprechauns write that for three days they will hide three gold coins for Little Man to find.  At the end of the three days (we’ll see how this part goes…) Little Man is to wrap all nine coins up in the leprechauns’ letter and leave it for them while he naps (they won’t come if you are looking for them).  When he wakes up, the leprechauns will have left him a special surprise.  You’ll have to keep following these leprechaun posts to see what this is…  🙂

Start the letter with "Dear (Name):" and proceed with the idea below, or use your own flare.

Start the letter with “Dear (Name):” and proceed with the idea below, or use your own flare.

Then after breakfast Little Man found a tray of Leprechaun Clouds on his stool ready for him to explore.  We brought the tray of clouds back to the dining room table (well protected now with towels..,. lots of towels…) and the adventure began.

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LOTS of towels and water...

LOTS of towels and water…

At first Little Man wasn’t sure about this crazy Leprechaun Cloud.  He isn’t the kind of kid who loves messy things with his hands, and it took a bit of coaxing from Dave to get him to dive in to search for treasure.  Once Little Man got used to the squishy foam, he had a blast and even after the activity was done and cleaned up, kept coming back to the table and asking for more clouds.  He ended up calling the little bowl of water for washing his treasure “cloud water.”  This was definitely a success.

061You can hide any sort of object in the Leprechaun Cloud as you like.  I wanted to keep this as a fun, but inexpensive activity so I only bought a few things from my local arts and craft store.  Little Man searched for and found 3 “gold” coins, two plastic “crystal” butterflies, and a handful of little glass blobs.  Other options that you could use include pretty much anything from  sensory play ideas, like pom poms, plastic flowers, beads, and the list goes on.  The little glass “blobs” and plastic butterflies that we used here were from the mega sale bins and were a total hit.  While he likes the butterflies, the glass blobs became “sea gems” and “pearls,” and he ran around all day and evening with his “treasure.”  He hid them from himself in the couch, in his plastic food bins, and in his teddy bears. I love it when the cheapest things become the most fun.

The "treasure" as it emerges from the cloud and gets washed off.

The “treasure” as it emerges from the cloud and gets washed off.

Now Little Man is completely excited about what adventure the leprechauns will have for him tomorrow when he gets to search for three more coins.  As you’ll see in the next post (and as Asia examples on her blog) the next adventure will be in “excavating” through homemade Treasure Stones.  I made the stones once he went to bed so that they’ll have time to set up overnight and he’ll get them in the morning.  We’re looking forward to more leprechaun fun… and LOTS more towels.

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Here is how I made the Leprechaun Clouds

Leprechaun Clouds
Equipment
1 large glass baking dish, or clear plastic tub (like for sensory play)
1 can shaving cream
Green Finger Paint (Color Safe)
3 “Golden” Coins
Assorted sensory fun, such as glass beads, pom poms, etc.
Green embellishments like glitter and shamrock confetti

Directions

  1. Place your “Golden Coins” and other sensory items in the bottom of your baking pan or plastic tub.

    This is supposed to be a fun, but inexpensive activity so don't break the bank buying fancy swag for your cloud.  These glass beads and plastic butterflies were in the mega sale bin at our local craft store.

    This is supposed to be a fun, but inexpensive activity so don’t break the bank buying fancy swag for your cloud. These glass beads and plastic butterflies were in the mega sale bin at our local craft store.

  2. Spray the shaving cream over your buried treasure in two layers.  Save the rest of the can for other activities… or for shaving.
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  3. Drizzle the green finger paint over the shaving cream and swirl it together lightly with your finger.
  4. Embellish the Leprechaun Cloud with green glitter and shamrock confetti.
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  5. Place this somewhere for your little one to find.
  6. Make sure to have towels to clean and dry little (and big) hands, as well as clear bowls of water to wash off the treasure.

    LOTS of towels and water...

    LOTS of towels and water…

Click here for a printable version of the Leprechaun Games or Leprechaun Clouds activities.

Eureka!

Eureka!

Embracing the Snow

Embracing snow is hard for me to do.  I can appreciate its beauty… for awhile… and its benefit to the environment as our future water supply.  Occasionally I will play in it as well.  But I’m done.  I apologize for this mini-rant to my friends who live in areas that can still expect falling snow for some time to come.  But I’m done.  I did my snow penance in upstate New York for years where 5-6 months of falling snow could easily be expected.  It should be noted that the 5-6 months mentioned does not account for the time it takes the snow on the ground to disappear.  The Californian in me simply can’t take it… but I’m trying to.

So when one of our neighbors from the end of the street came over to let us know that their grandson was visiting and wanted to know if Little Man wanted to come over and play in their igloo, I jumped at the chance.  These neighbors are also relatively new to our street and live in the original farmhouse for the area.  When the snow isn’t ever present, they have amazing gardens and orchards, as well as a wooded area that Little Man calls the Enchanted Forest.  We love to visit whenever we get a chance, and throw in the possibility of an igloo… we’re there.

It took FOREVER to get Little Man suited up in his gear, with the inevitable need to go potty right when I got the last piece of snow garb in place.  Eventually we made it out of the house and started ambling as quickly as his little snow-panted legs could carry him.  On the way there another neighbor saw us in snow gear and offered to loan their plastic toboggan.  So into the toboggan Little Man went, and off I mushed like a good sled dog.  Who needs a gym membership?  Just drag your toddler across and over snow drifts to feel the burn.

We slalomed up and down tractor tread impressions and around a cars, then across their farm house’s front yard, back into the orchard towards the sounds of infectious little kid laughter.  When we got there, low and behold, an igloo graced the area where last fall a pumpkin patch stood.  As an anthropologist I was immediately impressed with their igloo.  It wasn’t the real deal, but after studying Inuit culture, as well as multiple screenings of Nanook of the North and Atanarjuat it looked pretty good.  It had the key hole entrance, domed roof, and looked nice and sturdy.  Little Man clambered right in and would have stayed in there for quite some time except for the other little boy in there who started poking holes in the ceiling and dropping snow on Little Man’s head.  He retreated to better structural safety and clambered around the woods.

It was with the igloo that I realized that my Southern California upbringing, all my time at the beach and hiking around in the chaparral, did nothing to prepare me for how to play in the snow.  My goal of embracing the snow for at least short periods of time is going to require some added “research” on how to play in it.

For this day we did good.  We played in and around the igloo for a bit and then sled dogged it back home for lunch and nap.  Before leaving we made plans to meet up with our friends again after little boy nap times for sledding.   Dave was able to be home for that, which was great.  Our gardener neighbors had offered us the use of their great sledding slope, and we used it with reckless (almost) abandon.  Up and down.  Up and down.  Up and down.  Up and down we went.  Each time at the base of the hill Little Man would gaze off at the distant snow-capped mountain and twice he tried to get us all to walk there, like he had after playing on the frozen pond a few weeks back.

The day ended as all good snow days should.  Warm bath.  Hot cocoa.  Delicious dinner together.  Deep sleep.  Not quite embracing the snow (please go away snow… please…), but pretty good for me.

Being a sled dog on a blindingly bright snow play day.

Being a sled dog on a blindingly bright snow play day.

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My 50th – ish Post

Somehow I missed the benchmark of my 50th post for The Sheep Are Out.  February has been a miasma of amazing family visits intermixed with flus, colds and other illnesses that we seem to be passing around like potluck dishes.  Somewhere in the middle of trying to stay healthy, to get my loved ones healthy, to not make family that visited or that we were visiting sick, and to more or less keep up with life I missed the 50th mark.  So I’m going to celebrate that today with my 52nd (I think…) post.

I started this blog last summer as a way to create purpose and focus in the middle of our new adventures in Canada.  We now feel like we are finally finding our feet… sort of…, but those first few weeks especially were a crazy mix of excitement for our new home, for the ability to be close to family for the first time in Little Man’s life, as well as the intense frustration of immigration issues and missing those we had left behind again.  Honestly I floundered for a bit.

This post is about that floundering… more or less…  It consists of two short pieces that I wrote months apart.  The first was written within the first couple of weeks of the move.  I wrote it and then decided that it wasn’t anything I was going to share on the blog since it felt too raw.  Then a couple of weeks ago I woke up after a dream and wrote this second piece; sort of a reversal from the earlier writing.  Now as I celebrate the 50th-ish post for this blog, it seems to make sense to share both of these pieces here.  If this is where the first 50-ish posts have gotten me, I can’t wait to see where the next lead.

Can this be the same view with sheep munching contentedly just a few short months ago?

Can this be the same view with sheep munching contentedly just a few short months ago?

“Homemaker”

Today, for the first time, I was described on an official document as a “homemaker.”

That’s a title that I have never worked for; hadn’t even considered it as a possibility or a desire.  Then my son was born and I was only able to take off two weeks after giving birth before I was back in the classroom teaching full time.  Friends have called me “super woman” for that, but I didn’t feel super or strong or anything near heroic.  At that moment I was envious of my friends who had the ability to stay home with their babies.  I never thought I’d feel that way.

In my mind I define myself as “University Professor.”  That’s who I should be on that blasted form, that’s who I am, or at least I was.  I spent a decade working on my graduate degrees, finally completing my dissertation and doctorate only a couple of years ago.  I am just now getting comfortable with introducing myself as Dr. Hopwood.  Now, with the great job offer for Dave that brought us here in the first place, and the expiration of my contract at the college where we taught in the States, now I am a “Homemaker.”  I am a Ph.D. who cannot work at the local coffee shop because I don’t have my work visa yet, and in fact cannot even volunteer in a position where a Canadian would be paid.  So who does that make me?

About a month or so before “the move” I was chatting with a dear friend about this; about what it meant to step back from or give up even temporarily a career that defines us.  What I was going to do?  We talked about the fear of losing the spark that makes us attractive to our husbands.  But we both married some pretty stellar guys, so that wasn’t really the issue that concerned us.  Then we talked about the even more pressing fear; that with the loss of career how would we stay attractive to ourselves?  For that we had no easy answers and drifted into silence.

So today was the first time that I was officially defined as a “Homemaker.”  It won’t be the last.    Who do I become now?

A nice view from our kitchen window while making dinner.

A nice view from our kitchen window while making dinner.

A Dream of Different Days

While it is not unusual for me to remember a dream, it is not common either.  I once kept a dream journal containing memories of dreams written down immediately upon waking.  Rereading those entries was amazing, and many of the dream I never remembered even having.

This morning I had a teaching dream.  I haven’t dreamt of being in the classroom for a while… at least not that I remember.  In the past I’ve had the stress dreams of teaching, never naked in the lecture hall, but instead having to deal with troublesome students; or lecturing in class and suddenly not having a clue about what I’m supposed to be saying; or realizing that my entire lecture is blatantly false and everyone knows it.  These were dreams not of my body being laid bare for all to see, but my inadequacies.  Or so they seemed at the time.  My dream from this morning, however, was not that kind of dream.

In fact, this was the most at peace I’ve ever been in a teaching dream.  I was in a small room in a modern university building.  Only one student.  It all felt right.  I don’t remember the course I was teaching or the lecture topic, but for some reason First Peoples of the Americas feels right too.

I woke up from the dream a bit blurry but peaceful to the sound of Little Man waking through the monitor, singing one of his favorite Imagination Movers songs.  It wasn’t until later, trying to remember the dream and the feeling of rightness that it left with me, that I realized my one student was quite short.  In fact he was exceedingly short for college, and he had a short mop of blond curly hair.  He wore a nice pair of black dress pants and a long sleeve white button up shirt.  He was calm and respectful in class, asking good if simple questions.

The dream shifted at some point to the same room, same class, but now full of normal-sized university students.  We were discussing a lecture and each student spoke in a slightly high pitched, and distinctively whiny voice.  They are getting nervous here, worried about how much they had to learn.  I was unperturbed, finding this a normal part of their learning process.  I answered their questions, worked through different misunderstandings, and we forged on.

Later something in my day triggered memory of this dream, and I recognized my one student, as well as the multiple whiny students, all as representing Little Man.  This thought stopped me in my tracks, and I sat down trying to remember more of the dream.  I came to realize that my current “teaching gig” has outrageous hours, an irascible student body, and a complete lack of school holidays or teaching breaks.  Yet it’s my favorite “job” so far, even if the pay is lousy.  This dream left me smiling for days.  While I can’t vouch for tomorrow, for today at least I’m at peace with my “career.”

A short walk down the drive.

A short walk down the drive.

Stocking the Pantry 2: The Bread Edition

After publishing his seminal work entitled An Eater’s Manifesto in which he lays out many concerns over the modern production of food, Michael Pollan found himself deluged with questions regarding what was actually safe (or good) to eat.  His response was In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto where he writes that we should “eat food, not too much, and mostly greens.”  Sounds simple enough, except for the fact that what many of us consider to be “food” are actually highly processed, food-like products. To specify what he meant by “food,” Pollan wrote that it should be recognizable by our grandmothers (or great-grandmothers) as  “food,” even when we read the ingredient list.  In short, you shouldn’t need a Ph.D. in Nutritional Science to understand the contents of what you are going to eat.  Pollan’s iconic example of this is the ingredient list from a brand name “bread” product that had an astounding 20 ingredients when bread truly only needs four; flour, yeast, water and salt.

It was through readings such as Pollan’s that I realized I really didn’t know how a lot of the basic foodstuffs were made.  Don’t get me wrong I knew what was in some of these things, but I didn’t know how to go about making them for myself.  I had the theory, but not the practice.  Much of my cooking before that time had been focused on either making really fancy food or really quick food.  There were the fancy meals for friends where I tried out new ideas and tastes that until that time I’d only read about, and then there were the weeknight meals as a young married couple trying to balance graduate school and life. The basic foodstuffs, the types of things that I liked to keep in my pantry like spaghetti sauce, pizza dough, even muffins, were things that I only bought in packaged form and hadn’t really thought about making them at home.

Around the same time of Little Man’s arrival I had started teaching anthropology of food courses at the university where I taught.  The research I was doing for my courses, as well as our desire to feed our family well, led me to start tinkering with making some of these basics, like pizza dough and soup stock.  Now these things are so basic for me to make that it irks me if I run out and have to buy them from the store.  The basic food that I’ve recently added to my repertoire to make at home is whole wheat bread.

Now before you get nervous and start mentally listing off all the ways that you live a super busy life and can’t possibly fit making your own bread into an already crazy schedule, don’t panic.  Take a deep breath.  This recipe is a fun Saturday afternoon project and makes enough dough for you to make three loaves of bread, two of which can hang out in the freezer until you are ready to eat them.  That is the beauty of stocking your pantry; you make things periodically in bulk, freeze them, and then use them as you want them over the following weeks or months.  You can choose what types of staples you would like to have at hand, and make them at home.  And for all of these basic foods, like pizza dough, bread, tomato sauce, etc., there is something immensely satisfying knowing that not only do you know the entire ingredient list, but you actually made these things.  They weren’t made in a factory by extruders and people garbed in sci-fi plastic clothing, but these foods were made by you, with your own hands (and your kids’ hands), and that makes it all taste that much better.  Have fun!

IMG_9825Whole Wheat Oat Bread

Adapted from: Girl Versus Dough

Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups milk
4 ½ tsp. (2 packets) active dry yeast
3 tbsp. agave
4 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Combine half of the milk and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds or until very warm (not more than 115ºF).  Pour this into the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl) and add half of the yeast and agave.  Stir to combine and let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
    Adding the yeast to the milk mixture in the stand mixer.

    Adding the yeast to the milk mixture in the stand mixer.

    The yeast starting to proof and get foamy.

    The yeast starting to proof and get foamy.

    The rest of the dry ingredients.

    The rest of the dry ingredients.

  2. Add half of the flours, oats, olive oil and salt to the bowl and mix/stir to combine.  Once the ingredients are incorporated, mix at Speed 2 on your stand mixer for 6 minutes.  If kneading by hand, dump ingredients out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (about 15 minutes).
    The mixture just getting fully incorporated and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

    The mixture just getting fully incorporated and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

    The cohesive dough has been "kneaded" by the machine and is ready to proof.

    The cohesive dough has been “kneaded” by the machine and is ready to proof.

  3. Oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.  Place the dough into the bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.

    The first batch of dough resting in a proofing bowl.

    The first batch of dough resting in a proofing bowl.

  4. Repeat the previous instructions with the remaining ingredients.  Once the second batch of dough is completed, add it to the first.  Roll the dough quickly in the oiled bowl so that all sides are slicked.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then with a towel.  Place the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
    The second batch of dough has been added to the first and set in the bowl to rest.

    The second batch of dough has been added to the first and set in the bowl to rest.

    Covering the dough with plastic wrap.

    Covering the dough with plastic wrap.

    Tucking the dough in with a towel.

    Tucking the dough in with a towel.

    A big, beautiful bowl of proofed dough.

    A big, beautiful bowl of proofed dough.

  5. Gently press down on the dough to release some of the gases.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.

    There's no need to brutalize your dough by "punching" it down.  Just give it a nice press to release some of the gasses, then let it rest for a bit before proceeding.

    There’s no need to brutalize your dough by “punching” it down. Just give it a nice press to release some of the gasses, then let it rest for a bit before proceeding.

  6. Divide the dough into three pieces.  On a lightly floured board shape one piece of dough into a roughly 8×6 inch rectangle.  Tightly roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, tucking the ends in as you go.  Seal the cylinder along its base so that no seams are visible.  Set the cylinder aside and repeat this step with the remaining two pieces of dough.
    Form the individual pieces of dough into rough rectangles.

    Form the individual pieces of dough into rough rectangles.

    Then roll the rectangles into tight cylinders, tucking in the edges as you go.

    Then roll the rectangles into tight cylinders, tucking in the edges as you go.

  7. To bake immediately: Place each piece of dough into its own oiled loaf pan.  Cover the pan(s) loosely with plastic wrap and a towel.  Set the pan(s) aside to let the dough rise for about 45 minutes.  The dough should be more or less the shape of the finished loaf.  Proceed to baking instructions.
    If you want to bake a loaf immediately, place the formed cylinder into a well oiled bread pan.

    If you want to bake a loaf immediately, place the formed cylinder into a well oiled bread pan.

    Cover the prepared dough with plastic wrap and its towel, then set it aside to proof again.

    Cover the prepared dough with plastic wrap and its towel, then set it aside to proof again.

    This dough is proofed and ready for the oven.

    This dough is proofed and ready for the oven.

  8. To freeze for future use: Place each piece of dough into its own large, resealable plastic bag.  Seal the bag and place it in the freezer.  The dough can be frozen for 2-3 months.  Remove the dough from the freezer and thaw in a well-buttered loaf pan, then proceed to baking instructions.

    Any dough that you want to save can be tightly wrapped in plastic and then sealed in a plastic bag and frozen.  This dough will last in the freezer for 2-3 months.

    Any dough that you want to save can be tightly wrapped in plastic and then sealed in a plastic bag and frozen. This dough will last in the freezer for 2-3 months.

  9. Baking Instructions: Preheat your oven to 400ºF.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  The bread is done when dark brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or has reached an internal temperature of 190ºF.  Cool on wire racks and enjoy!IMG_9824
 Recipe Icon Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread
http://www.thesheepareout.com
adapted from: Girl Versus Dough
Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups milk4 ½ tsp. (2 packets) active dry yeast
3 tbsp. agave
4 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. salt
Directions:

  1. Combine half of the milk and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds or until very warm (not more than 115ºF).  Pour this into the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl) and add half of the yeast and agave.  Stir to combine and let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
  2. Add half of the flours, oats, olive oil and salt to the bowl and mix/stir to combine.  Once the ingredients are incorporated, mix at Speed 2 on your stand mixer for 6 minutes.  If kneading by hand, dump ingredients out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (about 15 minutes).
  3. Oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.  Place the dough into the bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.
  4. Repeat the previous instructions with the remaining ingredients.  Once the second batch of dough is completed, add it to the first, and shape the dough into a tight ball.  Roll the dough quickly in the oiled bowl so that all sides are slicked.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then with a towel.  Place the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Gently press down on the dough to release some of the gases.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into three pieces.  On a lightly floured board shape one piece of dough into a roughly 8×6 inch rectangle.  Tightly roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, tucking the ends in as you go.  Seal the cylinder along its base so that no seams are visible.  Set the cylinder aside and repeat this step with the remaining two pieces of dough.
  7. To bake immediately: Place each piece of dough into its own oiled loaf pan.  Cover the pan(s) loosely with plastic wrap and a towel.  Set the pan(s) aside to let the dough rise for about 45 minutes.  The dough should be more or less the shape of the finished loaf.  Proceed to baking instructions.
  8. To freeze for future use: Place each piece of dough into its own large, resealable plastic bag.  Seal the bag and place it in the freezer.  The dough can be frozen for 2-3 months.  Remove the dough from the freezer and thaw in a well-buttered loaf pan, then proceed to baking instructions.
  9. Baking Instructions: Preheat your oven to 400ºF.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  The bread is done when dark brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or has reached an internal temperature of 190ºF.  Cool on wire racks and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Whole Wheat Oat Bread recipe.

IMG_9825