Sunday, January 30, 2011

A moist bran muffin with a cup of coffee

I have a sweet spot in my heart for bran muffins.

As a child,  for some reason beyond me, my mom would stow away bran muffins in the freezer. We had a discount bakery outlet near our house, every once in a while she would get a dozen bran muffins and pop them into the freezer. I remember sneaking into the freezer and pulling out a rock hard individually cellophane packaged pre-made bran muffin. I would not-so-gently tear into the package, place the muffin in the microwave for 30 seconds and then go back to watching Saved by the Bell or some other engrossing show on Nickelodeon with a muffin frozen in the middle but scorching hot around the outside. It was a ritual, done the same each time.

I was not a very active child, I watched a lot of television while eating junk food. I am making up for it in my twenties. Things seem to balance out over time. I still love a good bran muffin, these days I trust very few packed pastries or store bought muffins. I am on the search for the perfect bran muffin.

This morning I got out of bed and headed straight for the kitchen with a mighty muffin purpose. I had to bake bran muffins. I am going to find the perfect ratio of bran to moisture with a hint of sweetness, and raisins, then I am going to squirrel them away in my freezer and enjoy half frozen bran muffins whenever I want. I am weird. J is pretty *meh* on the idea of bran muffins, I am sure he will opt for a egg sandwich while on the way to a bike ride in 30 degree temperatures this morning. This just means more for the freezer to toss in the microwave later, we don't have a TV these days, the one missing piece.  I am totally okay with that, I have moved on to coffee and books instead of sitcoms.

After making spelt bread last week I had a couple cups of spelt flour lingering in the pantry. I know that I like my bran muffins a bit heartier than cake so I substitute spelt flour for the all purpose flour and I loved it. I don't think I will use white flour in a bran muffin again.

Moist Spelt Bran Muffins

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Makes 12 muffins

Soaking the wheat bran in buttermilk prior to mixing the bran in the dry ingredients creates a lighter texture that is often lacking in other bran muffins.

1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup raisins or cranberries
3/4 packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line or grease a 12 - cup muffin tin.

2. Mix the buttermilk and bran in a large bowl and soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in the applesauce, raisins, brown sugar, egg, butter, molasses and vanilla.

3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Gently fold the flour into the wet ingredients until just combined.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin tins. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle come out clean. About 20 minutes.

Moist Spelt Bran Muffins
Wheat Bran on Foodista

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Maintenance & a book for you

A little maintenance....

The site, THIS SITE:

Personal Pages.  As if this site wasn't too personal already..... You might have noticed a few new personal page links under the header up top.

I want you to know about the Reading is Sexy page. Reading is sexy, especially the printed word. Books are cool, you know this because you are smart and sexy already. I love to collect books but hoarding books in a not so permanent apartment is not that good of idea, makes us feel kind of claustrophobic. I cannot help it, I love a big beautiful and well stocked bookshelf.  I peruse Amazon on a daily basis, adding to my wish list and practicing fiscal responsibility by not "1 clicking" and having the entire collection of Nora Ephron books shipped to my door. Used book stores make me weak in the knees and can keep me busy for hours. I promised myself not to buy any more books until I have plowed through a handful. I am a slow reader and rather busy body so sitting down to read takes some effort, so instead of cracking open my laptop, I am creating the habit of opening up a book. So far so good.

Check out the Reading is Sexy page. Feel free to email me if you want to chat about a book, want to share a book or need book recommendations.

I have also created an index for the recipes that I have posted on this site. Hey, look LadyStiles is organized for like three minutes! Next, the closet..... until then, check out my recipes.

Have you heard of BlogHer? It is a total chic site and with that being said, I totally love it. It is an incredibly supportive platform for women writers. The lovely ladies at BlogHer have featured several of my little posts, including today on BlogHer's home page and recently in the series, "A Month of Little Steps To health and Fitness." If you are interested and haven't spent any time on the site, check it out.

AND... because it is almost the weekend, because I really think ya'll are great and adore the fact that you take the time to read and comment I want to pass along a little gem of a book, "The Four Agreements" By Don Miguel Ruiz. Have you read any of Don Miguel Ruiz's work? I think he is an eloquent writer and has some very positive positive and timeless messages to share. I have a couple of extra copies on my book shelf that I pass on to people that might enjoy or be able to glean from.

If you happen to be interested in a copy, leave me a note on this post. Tell me about your favorite book right now or a book you think I might enjoy. I will randomly generate a comment on Sunday, January 30 and send the book off to the lucky peep!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A matter of time

I am totally okay with not working, unemployment has benefits. I have zillions of hobbies and passions to fill my day. I get up early, I have a routine, I take care of myself and make sure that I get dressed every day. These are some of the things that people warned me about when I was recently (actually not so recently) laid off. I never would of imagine that four months into unemployment I would still be sending out my resume to potential leads. Jobs are lame but I like to get my hair done, buy new dishes, drink good coffee and bling out my bike. These are things that you can do with a job, I have a sweet little sugar daddy right now, no need to shed a tear.... it is just not the time to have time.

I have been keeping track of every location I have applied to, the list is too long to admit. What is the deal? Really, am I ever going to find a job? I have a college education, I am not creepy, I am pleasant to be around most of the time....

Maybe someone is just waiting right around the corner, sees my potential and wants to write a book with me. An apprentice sort of thing. RIGHT? I thought so too.

I have been lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive husband that has been patient while we relocated and I find an illusive decent job. He puts on a happy face after a long day and makes an effort to take me out. I try to understand what he feels like working long days in the middle of the desert, cleaning up nuclear waste (he avoids the field, we want to have kids in the next couple of years). In all honesty, if I were raising our children, had some high paying stay at home job, or was going to school, or writing my book that is going to make me famous all this house time could be justified. At the end of the day he is tired and over worked and I am like a puppy that has a bunch of energy. We make do, I get unemployment benefits. Now is just not the time to have too much time.

I told my massage therapist that J got a job and is on reactor fuel recovery and she said he was doing the Lord's work. I laughed. The comment still makes me laugh, I don't think she really thought about that one before it slipped out. Or maybe she did, I didn't get into it, this is the location where they built the atomic bomb. I don't really enjoy such heavy debates. He is doing it for us. That is a big deal.

While looking for a job I have had a couple months to do a little soul searching, and I have found some pleasant things. I have fell in love with my blog, escaped and found comfort in writing, relaxed, fall increasingly in love with my husband, our dog relies on me, and I left my home town (big deal folks!) and made the time to go back and spend time with the people that I really care about and found that people care about me as well.

Life is never a simple story. There are high times and there are mine fields. Strikes and gutters.

I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. 
I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. 
I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.
-Audrey Hepburn

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hildegard's 100% Spelt Bread

True love is a serious thing - as is baking bread. Both serious but both easy with a wee bit of confidence.

First thing first - LOVE

True love, the deepest of friendships blesses me in a myriad of forms from a caring life long partner, dear friends, some sweet family members, and our precious little dog. These relationships are not to be taken lightly or for granted they need caring and tending to grow and a little kneading now and again.

Real things take time and effort, they don't hang on the wall and gather dust.

J came home last week, the last working day of a long week and took me out to dinner and then proceed to take me to go listen to music and drink a bottle of wine. Heaven forbid that our marriage gather dust. He did this for me, I know he would much rather go eat Mexican food in Pasco or eat chicken wings in a bar and more likely try finding the best fried chicken, but he went and drank wine with me, a favorite pass time of mine. He sat in a snooty wine bar (not the ideal location but we are in the arm of of Washington) with me, watched people dance to cover songs and we downed a bottle of wine. Some things take time, some things are worth the time. My heart melted when J took the time for me.

Life is a blessing, it's a delicatessen
Of all the little favors you do.
All wrapped up together no matter the weather,
Baby you always come through.
It's a measure of treasure that gives me the pleasure
Of loving you the way I do
And you know I would gladly say I need your love badly
And bring these little things to you.

Cause you got gold
Gold inside of you
You got gold
Gold inside of you
Well I got some
Gold inside me too

The other genuine relationships I cherish are my small group of girl friends, the Cascade Mountains and 300 miles separates us theses days, I now know I want to be surrounded by people that care about me. I miss the guys as well, they know me, one of them told me last time I was there that I looked too skinny and asked if I have ate at Arby's (I have never and will never eat at Arby's), he proceeded to tell me that I should go on an Arby's diet.  Roast beef sticks to your ribs apparently. It was the thought that counted.

I enjoy these lasting friendships that have taken time to develop.

These are the people I care about, the ones that tell you the truth. 

Second matter of the moment - BREAD

I enjoy things that take time to develop, like lasting friendships. I enjoy baking bread in my kitchen, using my hands and developing skills that have been around, yah know, since the beginning of time. Making bread is incredibly satisfying. The fact that we live in a city that lacks a good bakery (gasp) is also good reason to make our bread - or that I don't have a full time job and have the time helps.

In December I came across bread baking babes and jumped on board with a new group of ladies that enjoy another passion of mine, baking. I started with the taralli puliesi for the month of December. These little puppies were a chore! When January's challenge posted I got all giddy, the same giddy as I get for green soup. SPELT! I have a jar of spelt in the pantry in which I sprinkle the crunchy, sturdy flakes over yogurt nearly every morning. Spelt is also a staple ingredient in my favorite granola.

100% Spelt bread. I am all over this.

Here is the recipe, this month hosted by Astrid at Paulchens FoodBlog?!

Hildegard’s Spelt Bread

Makes 2 loafs

Recipe posted by Astrid

400 grams spelt flakes
600 grams whole spelt flour
15 grams salt
40 grams fresh yeast (16 grams instant yeast)
200 ml milk, lukewarm (I used soy milk....)
500 ml water, lukewarm
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sunflowerseed oil

Mix spelt flakes and spelt flour with the salt. Dissolve yeast in milk and combine everything to a sponge. Cover the bowl with a hand towel and let rest for about 15-20 minutes. It is crumbly.
Add water and lemon juice to the sponge and knead for at least 15 minutes gradually adding the sunflower oil. I was laughing when I first started with the big blob of goo. It did come together, have faith and patience. It is not every day you get to play with gakky goo. Have fun.

Form dough ball and coat with warm water. I placed mine in a bowl.

Cover again with a hand towel and let double in size. About an hour.

Knead for another 2-3 minutes.

Cut dough in 2 equal halves and place each in a baking pan.

Cut the surface of both breads about 5 mm deep and let rise again until doubled in size. I left it for about 30 minutes.

Bake the first 15 minutes at 200 °C [400F], then lower heat to 195 °C [385F] and bake for another 30 minutes.

Astrid’s notes:
- The longer you knead the dough, the more air will be incorporated – but be careful not to over knead the dough!
- You can also soak the spelt flakes in the lukewarm milk a while before you assemble the sponge, if you prefer.
- Be careful that the dough will not over rise, especially at the last rising step. Spelt loves to over rise if you are not careful enough.
- It’s recommended to place a bowl with water into the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking.
- You can also brush the finished bread with some milk and let dry for about one minute in the oven.

Spelt Bread

Friday, January 21, 2011

My favorite soup is green

Did you know that soup swap day is January 22? Neither did I.

Did you know that I love all food that is green, I actually love my green fruits and vegetables.  Not so into green beer nor green eggs even if it is served with ham. Green cocktails give me goosebumps and a sugar headache.

Soup swap day and green things..... come on Lady Stiles! Spill the beans! Or should I say peas.....

I adore split pea soup. I have been known to jump up and down while twirling in circles if some one wants to share it with me. The warm thick creamy texture warms me from the inside out, melting part of me. Mushy peas, a British traditional food will make me weak in the knees and seem that I have a hollow leg in which I can store vast quantities of marrowfat peas.

Since I am gushing over one of the most unphotogenic foods imaginable, I want you to know that I prefer a vegetable base, loaded with onions, carrots, and celery.  Just wanted to be clear. I am weird, I know how well ham pairs with split peas, I am just telling you that it is delish one each accord. I added a smoked salt for the smokey flavor that is imparted by the omitted smoked ham hock. I also know from experience that a dark beer adds the depth that often meat adds. Beer = Sip sip pour.

Now the magic and the reason this soup will keep even the devout meat eaters occupied. FRESH PEAS - more like frozen peas. With about 10 minutes left in the cooking process I add frozen (fresh?) shelled peas. Let the soup come back up to a warm temperature and then ladle bowls full, top with cream, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, fresh cracked pepper and if I am feeling indulgent, bacon bits. The fresh peas add texture, pop between the teeth and a fresh dimension to the dried peas.

Considered yourself armed for the imminent soup swap day. You have a very unique and tasty soup to swap or stow away in your freezer for those weeknights that cooking seems to be of the same magnitude as saving the world. 

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup Recipe

The fresh peas really make this soup shine with out a layer of pig grease so don't get all traditional on me forget to toss them in. You can use a vegetable stock if you like in place of the water, I don't care use whatever broth you have on hand or love. I've mentioned before that I like to use a beer as well, I use a dark beer like Guniss that has a wee bit of flavor and body - it makes a nice, light but flavorful broth.

 Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 large carrots, scrubbed and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped 
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups dried split green peas, picked over and rinsed
5 cups water, broth or a combination of the two to reach desired amount
2 cups frozen peas
juice of 1/2 lemon (reserve the zest)
a few pinches of smoked paprika
more olive oil to drizzle
Add olive oil to a soup pot over med-high heat.

Stir in onions, carrots, celery and salt and cook until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add the split peas and water or broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the peas are cooked through.

You could puree the soup, in a blender, at this point which would create great contrast of creamy peas to fresh peas.

Add the fresh peas and continue to cook for 10 additional minutes.

If you need to thin the soup out with more water (or stock) do so a bit at a time. Stir in the lemon juice and taste. If the soup needs more salt, add more a bit at a time until the flavor of the soup really pops.

Ladle into bowls or cups, and serve each drizzled with olive oil and topped with a good pinch of smoked paprika and a touch of lemon zest.

Split Peas on Foodista

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread: simple things

You are just going to have to trust me on this one or trust Joy because she is cool like that. You probably are going to want to make this bread. I am going to have to make a second batch. It is a cinch to mix up, it is easy on he tummy with a few simple ingredients, forms a sturdy loaf the can be sliced, smeared with butter without crumbling to the floor with the dog thinking that food apparently falls from the sky. I wish baked goods fell from the sky. Dogs are lucky that way.


The subtle flavor of the sweet molasses, the crunch of the cornmeal between the teeth and the nutty full bodied whole wheat flour all comes together with some buttermilk. No one else around me can vouch for me for the flavor factor or the superior texture of the loaf. Not a soul. The dog didn't even get a nibble, I ate even the crumbs.  The loaf lasted about two days... because I had restraint. By the second day, gone. Single handedly. Now I shared the dark secrets of my life, we can move on.

I ate the entire thing. All by my self, that never happens. But it was a flavor that reminds me of an old friend, easy, adaptable and knows how to make me feel good. Speaking of old friends, I spent the weekend with a dear friend, barging into her house, plopping on the couch and putting it into park. It has been years, times change, we both have grown older, but our relationship still holds a very close place in my heart.

Some things are easy, simple and satisfying. Some things are worth keeping, like this recipe, the loaf pan that the bread is made in which is one of the only things I have from my grandma, my old friend but if you happen to figure anything else out and send me a note, like where I can find a decent job.

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread
makes one 8×4 or 9×5-inch loaf
recipe from the Joy the Baker and New York Times
1 2/3 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup molasses

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease and flour an 8×4 or 9×5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt and baking soda.

In a small bowl stir together buttermilk or yogurt and molasses.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold to combine.  The batter will be slightly thick, but not dry.  Spoon batter into prepared pan and place in the oven.  

Bake loaf for 45 minutes to an hour.  Depending on how evenly your oven bakes, you might want to rotate the loaf in the middle of baking.  

When a skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, remove the loaf from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes in the loaf pan.  Run a knife along the sides of the pan and carefully invert onto a wire rack.

Loaf will keep, well wrapped at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Storm

Perched on a hillside, on the edge of a forest, looking down upon a valley in the lush foothills of a magnificent mountain sits the house I grew up in. During the winter there are storms that rip through this town which is tucked next to a mountain range to the east and the west is the sea. The winter storms that rip through the heart of the Pacific northwest pack a punch and blow through the seemingly quiet county without reprieve. Howling winds rip through tall trees, these northeastern winds are forces to be reckoned with. The winter winds come from a dark barren landscape to the north bringing with them an intensity that try the mightiest of creatures from the grand cedar trees to the flannel wearing rednecks.

There is only so much wind those sturdy cedar trees that canvas the the few acres around our house can with stand. When the gusts start to wail, the trees begin to moan and sway, bending in the wind. Trees are limber and have evolved give when the forces bear down. They take the blows that puts their strength and elasticity to the true test of resolution. Of course, some trees break under the pressure. They crash with horrible commotion. It sounds raw, boisterous and roaring with bruit power. Come springtime every year we would make huge piles of fallen trees to burn, cleaning up after the usual storms.

There is a limit to the strain an object can endure. Seemingly strong, stoic creatures of the earth fall victim to forces beyond their power.

At the end of the storm, there is always damage, minor or catastrophic. Loss and destruction. The wreckage must be assessed and ravage accounted for then cleared before the long dark next winter winds sweep through.

As a child, I never could sleep through these wind storms, I would lay awake in my bed listening to the windows resist the gusts, straining, moaning and the trees, the trees screeching as the moved with the forces of the northeast winds. Now that I am hundreds of miles away, surround by sagebrush and tumbleweed with not a tree in sight, I get a little uneasy when the winds start to growl. I wait for the talking trees, for the trees to contend to the wind and each sound their battle cries.

The only storms I feel now are the winds raging in my soul and the storms brewing in the ones of who I deeply care for. I see their trouble and feel my inner turmoil. I can not ward off the forceful blows trying to knock down the spirit. There will always be storms, some times they are large and leave a massive path of destruction. These are the storms that keep me up late at night, listening to the winds and trying to find comforting thoughts in the commotions. I feel small and powerless against these dark winters and cloudy world in which we live.

We are fragile. The human spirit can compromise and adjust but there is a limit to the endurance of all creatures. We can bend in the wind but we need to understand when the breaking point is coming, and unlike the storms that blow through the long dark winter months, storms battle continuously at our hearts and souls. A tree could not stand alone and survive a storm, neither can the human soul, there is strength in numbers and security in the forest.

I often find myself trying to be that lone tree, trying to stand on my own. When the winds blow, I have no protection or buffer from the elements. Trees can grow, relationships can build and communities can rebuild. Be part of each others forest, be part of my forest and I will try my hardest to be a part of yours.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new end.

Maria Robinson

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

SNAP! Rosemary Cornmeal Grissini

Crunch CRUuuuunchhhhhh CRUNCH

What? Did you say something?


Nibble nibble....


Don't mind me, I am just blissing out on bread. Bread sticks. Perfect longer than necessary rustic bread sticks. 


Rosemary cornmeal grissini because I know you are dying to figure out what that noise is.

They just sound sexy. They are more rustic than sexy but baking bread is sexy if you ask me.

Don't be intimidated by the fact that there is yeast in the ingredient list or the fact that it sits on the counter until it doubles in size.

Jump in. You heard me.

With the quick mix of the stand mixer or whiz of a food processor or your elbow grease, you will master the bread stick, ahem, grissini. No rolling or kneading needed here folks. Simply pat half the dough out to about eight by four inches, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt. Then, cut into  pencil size strips. Stretch the dough pencils out the length of the cookie sheet and bake for about thirty minutes. Perfect breadsticks. No kidding.


I had to go back for more.

These long straws make a great addition to any meal or snack. Just try not to make them a meal, unless they are accompanied by a bottle of wine. That is a meal. Don't argue. This is true.

I was inspired by Wild Yeast to make these. I didn't change the recipe, it is perfect, she knows more than me about bread. Go and check out the recipe here.

Wild Yeast also post a weekly roundup of all things creative and beautiful in the world of bread. You can find me in the round up at YeastSpotting! It is inspiring.

Check out Bread Baking Day #36 at Girlchef.

Grissini on FoodistaGrissini