Comfort. Crusty Bread.

What do you gather around you when you need comfort?

A mug of tea or a cocktail? A favorite sweatshirt or song? Your friends, your family? Pasta or cookies? Maybe even a memory?

Sometimes the memories, those are the worst when you’re searching for comfort.

Smells comfort me. My running shoes and my yoga mat bring me comfort. So do family and friends and my dear, sweet Mira and Lola.

And food, though different food for different situations. Sometimes I need a fresh loaf of bread. It’s homey, warm, simple, and good. And no matter how many loaves of bread I make, I still feel an incredible amount of satisfaction when I take the bread pan out of the oven and slice myself a piece. It’s a miracle to me every time that I can get the yeast to work.

I was out of bread last weekend and craving something different from my usual whole wheat sandwich bread. Something white and crusty. I found a recipe for a no-knead bread via Pinterest and decided to give it a shot. Not many ingredients, no mixer or kneading required, and I could let it rise its required 12-18 hours overnight and put the loaf in the oven in the morning.

Nothing beats a house filled with morning sunshine and the smell of baking bread. Wait, warm-from-the-oven bread with avocado and a runny fried egg—that almost beats it. Talk about comfort, plain and simple.

I’m on my second loaf of this crusty gloriousness, and I’m going to tell you, it cannot be easier to make. You may say yeast scares you (please, no yeast jokes, I know at least one of you is making one in your head.), that making bread is a difficult process. Trust me, it’s not.

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Iced Pumpkin Bread

This is a story of how I made my own pumpkin puree and how it was awesome and not scary. This is also the story of how I put the puree in things like my morning oatmeal and pumpkin bread.

Here’s a warning – do not get that pumpkin pie filling stuff. Use pumpkin puree for all your pumpkin cooking and baking needs. You can get it canned this time of year (and only this time of year. Why??), or you can make it yourself. I promise you up and down and all around that making your own is not hard to do. You will need a bit of time. I’d suggest making the puree either the day before you plan on actually using it and then storing it in the fridge, or just giving yourself a couple of hours for puree-making + using puree. All this recipe involves is cutting up the pumpkin into quarters, baking it, peeling off the skin, and pureeing it.

So I spotted pie pumpkins in my Farm Fresh…err, nope GREEN Bean Delivery (they changed their name FYI), and decided it was high time I stopped buying cans of pumpkin. Pie pumpkins are smaller than your average pumpkin, but really I think you can make puree out of any kind of pumpkin. They all seem to be the same to me.

Now you have your pumpkin puree plan. What will you do with it? I suggest pumpkin bread. Or oatmeal. Or put a bit in your favorite pancakes. There are tons of recipes out there. I’m going to attempt to try a few more this fall.

I had one thing in mind for my puree: pumpkin bread. One of Adam’s all-time favorite baked goods is pumpkin bread, and a couple of years ago his mom gave me her recipe (this was also the same time she gave me the potato chip cookie recipe. So now I can pretend to be Adam’s mom by baking him pumpkin bread. And that’s not weird at all.

Make this pumpkin bread. It’s spicy (in a cinnamon and nutmeg sort of spicy way) and pumpkin-y, and never dries out. This time I topped it with cinnamon cream cheese icing, but it’s equally delicious plain.

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Sick Girls Like Corn Bread

First of all, did you know Jewel has made like four or five albums since her first one in the 90s? Pieces of You was one of my first CDs (along with Dave Matthews Band, Crash). I recently heard Foolish Games on the radio and suddenly got a Jewel craving. So now I’m listening to that album on LaLa.com. But the song Pieces of You, kinda disturbing!

You know what I miss? Mixed tapes. Mixes on CDs just aren’t quite the same. There’s nothing quite like sitting by your boom box, waiting to hear a song on the radio so that you can hit the record button, and inevitably get some of the DJ chatter at the end of the song on the tape too.

The most exciting thing that happened to me this week involved my plumbing and pasta in my bathtub. On Tuesday the kitchen and bathroom sinks started to drain slowly. I then discovered that not only were they draining slowly, but they were draining right into my bathtub! SCORE! I tried Drain-o and plunging but no luck. Pretty soon my bathtub was a log of what I’d eaten in the past week. Good thing I don’t care much if I don’t get a shower ever day, or for three days.

Well, I’ve managed to get sick three times in the past month, which is pretty rare for me. Cold, Norovirus (which is the most hilarious and gross stomach bug EVER), cough/fever. (By the way Foolish Games does not sound pretty when sung by someone who is on the verge of losing her voice. Worst sound that has ever come out of my mouth.) I’m hoping for a healthy February. So not much cooking or baking has happened. I did make some black bean soup and corn bread earlier this week though. The soup was so so. The corn bread was fabulous. I want to make it again with chili.

The recipe calls for milk or buttermilk. I don’t drink milk and really only use it in baking, substituting soy milk most other times. And usually it works out fine. I’ve made some damn good gratin potatoes with soy milk. The only thing I’ve had trouble with is alfredo sauce. My body cannot handle all that heavy cream but oh good Lord I love alfredo sauce. Soy milk, in my experience, when heated up and subbed for heavy cream in this case, gets sweet, and alfredo sauce should not be sweet. Does anyone have any tips on cooking with soy milk or other dairy substitutes? Anyway, back to the corn bread. I didn’t have milk and was almost out of soy milk. I did however have heavy cream for some weird reason, so used that instead. No need to do that I’m sure. I’d stick with milk or soy next time.

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In The Kitchen

Somehow this weekend turned into a cooking/baking party.

Last weekend I made pizza dough. It was insanely easy and good and now I think I can make somewhat healthy pizza. I was then inspired to try making bread. I’ve always thought of bread as one of the hardest things to make because of my dad’s bread baking stories. In coll
ege he was known for making bread that was literally as hard and dense as a rock. He loved it. Everyone else (i.e. my mom and aunt and uncle) thought he was crazy.
My friend Renée made this no-knead bread though and claimed it was incredibly easy. Then I stumbled upon this blog, Smitten Kitchen, and amazingly enough she includes the same recipe on her site. OK so I decided this was the one to be my first attempt into the world of bread.
Not going to lie, it was time consuming, but not in a labor intensive sort of way, just in a waiting sort of way. The dough has to rise for 12-18 hours and then again for 2 hours. So it requires some planning ahead. Buuuut after a half an hour in the oven it tastes so good! Chewy inside and crusty crust. The recipe can be found here. And below:)