Thursday, May 30, 2013


After looking at some recent photos of Kamal on Facebook, one of my aunts wrote to me, concerned.

"Would you please consider not to let the hair cover his eyes, or one of his eyes all the time," she lobbied. "I heard people said that it's not good for his eyesight in the future. And it worries me. So please see what can you do."

Well. After bristling for about one second, I realized she wasn't wrong. His hair has been getting a little out of control lately. 

Fix my hair, please. FIX IT. NOW. 

But what to do about it? It's not like I set some great example of not-in-my-eyes hair. 

Apple didn't fall far from the shaggy tree. 

Besides, I love his hair. I love all of its delicious, crazy, softest-thing-I've-ever-touched wildness.

I love that, as I move through my day, touching anything soft at all brings me a clear and visceral memory of holding, rocking and stroking my silken-headed little darling.

And he loves it too. When he is a little distressed or falling asleep or otherwise in need of comfort, he will hold a strand of his hair the way many babies will hold a corner of a security blanket--and often he'll keep holding it while sleeping. 

Security hair

I couldn't bear to cut it. Could. Not. Bear. It. The very idea makes me want to cry. And I know it's irrational, and I know one day he'll need a haircut, but it just feels too wrong, too soon. Hair has always been overly imbued with meaning for me, and, well. Right now is not the time for me to try and get past a deeply entrenched old emotional pattern. Maybe when we're all getting a little more sleep.

All that being said, though, it's not really okay to have Kamal grow up thinking the whole world is curtained with fuzzy black strands. And we do like seeing his lovely face. So we had to figure out how to get his hair out of his eyes.

I researched hair gel-type products for babies, even finding some homemade all-natural hair gel recipes, but the idea of his baby going around with gelled hair weirded Adam out. Hats and hairbands or bandanas are a no-go so far--Kamal just takes them right off. Our friend Mayumi suggested a sort of topknot, like a samurai might wear, and that felt like the right path to take. We tried it. Et 
voilĂ :

Samurai-inspired baby!

I am loving it, and I'm pretty sure Kamal is, too. At least, he doesn't seem to have changed his generally pleased demeanor. It's got to be nice to be able to see straight ahead again, right?  Bonus: he hasn't figured out yet that he can get the rubber band out by himself. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ridiculously Easy Bread In A Jar: The Actually Useful Rewrite

HOLY MOLY that was a lot to read to get a simple recipe. Being concise is not a strength I am overburdened with, and apparently sleep deprivation doesn't make me any better at it. 

Here's the simple recipe that I promised you in the beginning before all the blather.

Ridiculously Easy Bread In a Jar

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt 
2 cups white flour
1 cup wheat flour

In a half-gallon Mason jar, stir the yeast and salt into the warm water. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture has little bubbles on top.

Put the flour into the Mason jar (a canning funnel is useful here) one cup at a time, stirring well to combine after each cup.

Let sit at room temperature for one to two hours, or until the dough reaches the top of the jar. Punch down the dough, screw lid on loosely, and refrigerate overnight or for up to two weeks. 

To make a basic loaf of bread, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Grease up a loaf pan; I use coconut oil, but you could use butter, bacon fat, olive oil, lard--whatever you have handy. Pull the dough out of the jar and make an approximate cylindrical shape with it. Place it in the pan, pop it in your preheated oven, and leave it there for somewhere between half an hour and 45 minutes, or whenever it is nice and crusty-looking and the internal temperature is at least 195 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In preparing this bread, you don't have to use a proper shaping method, score the loaf, overheat the oven and then turn it back down to 450 once the loaf is in, or place a steam pan in the bottom of the oven. You can do any and all of these things if you'd like, and having done them, I can tell you that they only improve the loaf. That being said, the beauty of this recipe is that if all you have time to do is stick a lump of dough in the oven, you'll still get decent bread. 

Other options: press dough flat with your hands and cook on the grill or in a cast-iron pan on the stovetop; make littler lumps of dough for rolls; stuff, wrap and bake into a pretty bread braid. Enjoy! 

Ridiculously Easy Bread In A Jar

(NOTE: The following post was written over several days, under the influence of increasingly dire sleep deprivation. Kamal is now waking up every 20 to 45 minutes. I think there was a Battlestar Galactica episode where this sort of sleep cycle disruption was used as a weapon by the Cylons against the humans. Kindly keep this in mind while reading this post; if this bread recipe includes phrasing that sounds vaguely punchy, delirious or hostile, don't take it personally. It's just the no-sleep talking.)

(ANOTHER NOTE: I just reread this and it is ridiculous. I will leave it up as a monument to what sleep deprivation does to the brain, but it's a giant pain to use as a recipe. I'll post a straightforward recipe next. This really is very easy, not that you'd know it from all my rambling here.)

As promised, here's the recipe for Ridiculously Easy Bread In A Jar, which is a recipe I adapted from this recipe on Jezebel, which is a recipe I'm pretty sure is adapted from No-Knead Bread. I started making Ridiculously Easy Bread in a Jar because I wasn't able to keep up with even the ease that is No-Knead Bread--basically, planning ahead is awfully hard when you have a baby who is totally not into having a schedule--and so until Ridiculously Easy Bread happened, I wasn't making bread at all. Which meant we were BUYING bread all the time, or worse, getting takeout because we didn't have a basic foundation for sandwiches or our go-to it's-late-and-we-haven't-cooked-anything dinner of eggs-and-toast.

To get your own batch of REBIAJ started, you need:

  • A big jar--something about a half-gallon in size. I use an old Le Parfait 1.5 liter jar with the rubber gasket removed*. You could theoretically also use a tupperware or something, but then you'd have to call this Ridiculously Easy Bread In A Tupperware, which sounds rather less winsome
  • A canning funnel will make things a lot easier, too, as will
  • a longish wooden spoon. And lastly, 
  • an instant-read thermometer helps avoid the guesswork around when to pull the bread out of the oven. We have a ThermaPen that I got Adam for his birthday or Christmas or something one year. It is a little on the pricey side, but we use it constantly for bread, roasts, steak, burgers, canning, candy, even to get precise about the water temperature in coffee and tea preparation: TOTALLY worth it.
The ingredients for the bread are:

  • one and a half cups of warm water. Test it with your finger; it should be nice, soothing, bathwater warm. Too hot and it'll kill the yeast; too cool and the yeast will be sluggish. 
  • a tablespoon of active dry yeast
  • a tablespoon of salt (I use kosher, and technically it measures differently than other salt, but use whatever salt you have on hand. Some people will tell you not to use iodized salt, but for a simple, unfussy bread like this one, it so does not need to be a thing.)
  • two cups of white flour
  • one cup of  whole wheat flour (I like the softer white whole wheat variety, versus the traditional red whole wheat)

Pour the warm water into the jar.

Add the tablespoon of yeast. Stir. Add the tablespoon of salt. Stir. (Small tangent: I believe bread is generally better when you follow a recipe by weight, not by volume. But this is a Ridiculously Easy recipe, so, yeah. A tablespoon of each. It'll work out just great, I promise.)

Let the jar sit and do its little science experiment for 10 to 20 minutes, while you do something else. Do whatever you want. I'm not the boss of you.

When you come back to the jar, it might be super-frothy or there might just be a few little bubbles. Either way, move forward. Using the canning funnel, put one cup of the  flour in the jar, and stir till all the flour is incorporated into the water mixture. Repeat with the other two cups of flour. Stirring after the last cup is tricky in the jar, which is why the longishness of your spoon is important. Take the time and effort to mix until all the flour and water are evenly combined; otherwise, you'll have little floury dry spots in your bread. Which isn't the end of the world, either, so if your arm is really tired or you're running short on time, just do your best. 

Also? Unbleached flour is the way to go here, and in general. There are a very few instances where bleached flour is preferable to the baker, but as a rule of thumb, don't eat bleached things. 

Now just let the jar sit for a while--maybe an hour or so, longer if your kitchen is very cold, shorter if it's very warm. When the dough has reached nearly the top of the jar, give it a firm but loving shove back down into the jar--it will sort of deflate a little bit--close your jar, and stick it in the fridge. Leave it at least overnight, but anywhere up to a couple of weeks.

Now you have a jar of dough that you can do all sorts of fabulous things with. You can pull out a bit and bake it into dinner rolls or hamburger buns, or stretch it out and grill it or pan-cook it to make a nice flatbread. To make the loaf in the picture above, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees, greased a loaf pan with coconut oil, took out all the dough in the jar, shaped it into an approximate cylinder shape, placed it in the loaf pan, and baked it for 40 minutes. (Your thermometer should read between 195 and 205 degrees at the center of the loaf when the bread is done.) No fancy shaping, second rising, steam pan in the oven or anything. It's good, serviceable bread, perfectly adequate for sandwiches, excellent for PB&J's. Nothing that's going to win any bake-off prizes, but head and shoulders above commercial sliced-and-bagged bread. Don't buy that stuff, by the way. It's gross. 

Tonight I used the Ridiculously Easy Bread In A Jar dough to make a very satisfying spinach, feta and pine-nut stuffed bread braid. It ended up being kind of a monster--enormous and way overstuffed--but an awfully tasty dinner. I also used cottage cheese, both to bump up the feta volume and because breastfeeding makes me crave protein in the worst way. I topped it with black sesame seeds. Traditional Chinese medicine says black sesame seeds are tonifying to the Kidney qi, which is depleted by childbirth. 

This was a perfect application for REBIAJ (or any good-but-not-mind-blowingly-amazing bread) because the bread doesn't need to be mind-blowingly amazing when it's stuffed with lots of delicious...stuff. 

Making a bread braid is one of those things that ends up looking like it took a lot more work than it actually did. I love things like that. It's easier to do if you look at pictures of how someone else did it, which I didn't take, but you should totally Google a how-to. Otherwise, here's a basic outline:

-Roll your bread dough into a rectangle. If it resists and starts shrinking at the edges while you're trying to roll it out, treat it like a stubborn person you're arguing with who's resisting coming around to your point of view: Walk away for ten minutes or so. Let it be. Take the path of least resistance. When you come back, it/he/she will be a lot easier to work with. Either that or they'll be super-pissed off that you walked away in the middle of the argument. Look, maybe don't take my advice about arguing with people. What am I, a diplomat? A hostage negotiator? But for the bread dough, yeah. Give it some alone time and it'll treat you better.  

-Once you have an approximate rectangle, divide it visually into thirds lengthwise. Cut parallel, diagonal strips to the middle third down the length of the rectangle. That sounds really confusing. Here is where you should just Google "bread braid" and you will see what I mean. 

-Pile your filling into the middle third of your rectangle.

-Tuck the top end of the rectangle over the filling. 

-Now fold a strip from one side over the filling. Then fold a strip from the other side over that strip. Then switch sides and do it again. Do this all the way down. 

-When you get to the bottom, tuck the bottom end over the filling and under your last couple of "braided" strips. Couldn't be easier. Not that you can tell from my bewildering description. Seriously, you guys, Google is your friend. 

The filling here was all guesswork--no measuring, but I know I put in one large yellow onion that I'd sauteed till it was golden brown and a LOT of sauteed spinach, enough to fill a largish salad spinner when it was raw. Also I'd guess about 6 ounces of feta, roughly chopped, maybe 4 ounces of cottage cheese, and for reasons that are unclear to me now, a beaten egg mixed in to the cottage cheese. Next time I make this, I will put in less of everything--it was way overstuffed--no egg, and maybe no cottage cheese. 

I brushed an egg wash (just another beaten egg mixed with some water) over the top, baked it at 450 for about 30 minutes on parchment paper sitting on a preheated pizza stone with a steam pan in the bottom of the oven, pulled it out and let it rest for about 20 minutes, and then dove in because I was starving.

And that's just one of the awesome things you can do with REBIAJ! We've made very good griddled or grilled flatbreads, pretty damn decent hamburger buns, and so-so cinnamon rolls. I imagine it would make an OK focaccia or psuedo-pizza crust in a pinch, even. 

*The reason I use a jar with the gasket removed is that I bought this jar at a garage sale and it didn't come with a gasket. That being said, I think it's actually a good adjustment to make if your jar has a gasket, because often the dough continues rising for a while after I put it in the fridge and I come home to dough squeezing out of the tiny crack between the lid and the jar that the gasket would otherwise seal. If the jar were airtight, I might be worried about the glass cracking or the dough growth being limited. If you're going to use a regular Mason jar with the screw-top lid, I'd suggest screwing the lid on loosely. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Today we were out of eggs, which meant I had to eat something besides my daily bowl of egg, rice, kale and Adam's homemade sriracha. Here's what I came up with instead.

Kamal had basically the same breakfast, only deconstructed and with plain oatmeal (no coconut, ginger or sugar) and with the addition of green beans, which we are pretty sure are his current favorite food.

Here's how I fixed it:

1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup steel-cut oats
1/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
a little more than 1/8 cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut
a few pieces of candied ginger, roughly chopped

Bring all of the above to a boil, then quickly lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until cereal is a consistency that looks appealing to you, stirring frequently.  Add brown sugar to taste.

Put in a bowl that you like, preferably one that your husband made, and top with:
about 2/3 of a fresh apricot
2 big strawberries, chopped
a handful of blueberries
a splash of heavy cream.

Here's Kamal's review of his breakfast:

Shortly thereafter I discovered a mashed-up strawberry in his onesie.

Monday, May 6, 2013

First citrus

A sweet satsuma section, sampled at our local grocery store.

Mikey likes it!

Friday, May 3, 2013


Kamal pulled himself up to standing for the first time today! He used my hair to do it, which made it somewhat less awesome an experience for me. But he was pretty thrilled.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I am in the throes of a bread-baking fit.

Adam purchased Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread Every Day  after I'd stopped making No-Knead Bread and started making what I call "Ridiculously Easy Bread in a Jar." REBIAJ is even easier than No-Knead Bread, which means it was actually getting done around here with some regularity, and it's tasty enough, but Adam wasn't in love with it. Buying the Reinhart book was his gentle, hopeful strategy towards making sure that REBIAJ wouldn't be the only bread getting baked in the house, and, well, it's working.

Over the last week, I've made Reinhart's Classic French Bread, in baguettes and a fancy made-up snail shape:

And also this 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, to which I added, using Reinhart's excellent instructions, oats, quinoa, and chia seeds for a remarkably healthy loaf. I was a little worried that with zero white flour it would come out of the oven like a brick, but it's amazingly light and fluffy--even Adam, who is always a little skeptical about whole-grain baked goods, was impressed--and super yummy. Just baked it today and froze the extra loaf, and am so proud of how it turned out it's kind of obnoxious.


For dinner tonight, we made "hippie sandwiches"--our term for chicken, avocado, and sprouts on whole-grain bread--with a little of Adam's excellent homemade mayonnaise.

And here's a picture of my Ridiculously Easy Bread in a Jar, which I continue to make because, well, the above loaves are not ridiculously easy. (They're not ridiculously difficult, either. But when your hands are full of a baby who is, while otherwise lovely, an unreliable napper and you are the sole practitioner and owner and marketing department and janitor of your acupuncture clinic, let's be real: sometimes ridiculously easy bread is the only bread that is going to happen.)

It's not as impressive as the Reinhart loaves, I know. But it's still kinda pretty, right? In a humble, homey sort of way? I'll post the recipe soon, because I bet even if you've never baked bread before in your life you'll just know you can make this.