Biochemist in the Kitchen

Biochemist in the Kitchen

Shirley Corriher’s book, Cookwise, is one of the cookbooks in my collection gifted to me by C2.  I was flipping through the section on bread baking recently and noted that in nearly all of her recipes, Shirley calls for using ¼ of a vitamin C tablet along with ¼ of a cup of crushed ice chips into the bread making process. I read her bio and learned that she is a trained biochemist and consults with major food companies to improve their recipes.  She is very specific in her instructions too which is so helpful especially if you are just beginning to learn to develop bread.  C3, home recently for Father’s Day, made her first loaf of bread from scratch following one of the Cookwise recipes and it turned out soft and yeasty.

The results reflect her attention to detail.  For example, instead of stating that we should stir until combined, Shirley tells us to mix on low-speed with a mixer for five minutes.  She tells us if the flour should be chilled or room temperature. She teaches us why to use vitamin C in our dough.  I learned from her that vitamin C is a natural dough conditioner. It is the only enhancer allowed by 100% organic bread makers and even the rigid French bread laws allow for a little bit of vitamin C. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, improves the qualities of rustic loaves, making them lighter in texture while, at the same time, helping to marginally decrease the overall mix time, which is a good thing for dough.

Next month,  C3 and I are headed to Norwich, Vermont, to take a week-long pastry class from the professional bakers at King Arthur Flour Baking School.  We expect to hone our skills at pastry and learn more about the science of cooking.  Maybe we will start a pop-up business of our own.  All I can say is — BAKE!

Here is an example of one of her bread recipes using the secret ingredient, vitamin C and rice.

Rice Bread

  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • I T light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water (115 degrees)
  • 1.5 Cups and 1 3/4 Cup bread flour
  • 1/4 500- milligram vitamin C tablet, crushed
  • 1/4 cup crushed ice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 cup cooked long-grain rice (white or brown)
  • 1 T oil for bowl
  • Nonstick spray
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Stir the yeast and brown sugar into the warm water in a bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.  Let stand for 2 minutes, until foam appears, indicating yeast is alive and well.  Add 1.5 cups bread flour.  With the paddle blade, beat on low-medium for 4 minutes to beat air into the dough.  Let the sponge sit for 30 minutes to 2.5 hours for improved flavor and texture.

Remove the paddle blade and insert the dough hook into the mixer.  Add vitamin C, crushed ice, salt, oil and remaining 1 3/4 cup bread flour.  Knead on low-medium speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is very elastic.  Add parmesan, cayenne, and rice.  Work into dough by hand or in the machine.  The dough should be very soft and slightly sticky.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat with the oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until slightly more than doubled in volume, about 1.5 hours. To keep the plastic from sticking to the dough, spray the side of plastic touching the dough with cooking spray first.

Punch dough down with a closed fist.  Reach to the back of the bowl under the dough and pull the bottom of the dough up and over the center.  Repeat the same action at the front of the bowl, then turn the dough out onto the counter.  Using both hands with a gentle cupping and tucking action, shape the dough into a smooth, tight round.  Grab the sides of the round and stretch it sideways into an oval.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for 15 minutes.  The dough is now ready to shape.

Cup the dough with both hands, fingers spread out behind the loaf on either side and thumbs in front of the loaf.  Press your thumbs into the dough and down against the table.  Then pull or tuck in part of the bottom half of the dough.  At the same time, pull the top of the dough tight and forward with your fingers.  Now move your thumbs down slightly and press down and in again to knead and tuck again.  Repeat this motion two or three times.  The ends of the loaf go down in a slight taper,  Tuck them under, then pinch the ends and bottom seam together.

Spray a 5 x 9 x 3 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and place the loaf in, seam side down.  Brush with beaten egg. Let the dough rise until slightly more than doubled, about an hour.

About 30 minutes before the dough is fully risen, place a baking stone on a shelf in the lowest slot of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes. About 5 minutes before baking, turn the oven down to 375 degrees and carefully place a shallow pan with 1/2 inch of boiling water on the oven floor.

Brush bread again with the egg and place the pan directly on the hot stone.  Bake for 45-55 minutes.  Remove the loaf from the pan.  The loaf should be very brown and sound hollow when thumped from the bottom.  If using an instant-read thermometer it should read at least 200 degrees in the middle of the loaf.


Welcome to Taco Bell, may I take your order?

Welcome to Taco Bell, may I take your order?



Just days after RM and I were hitched for life, we moved to the City of Angeles so that he could embark on his early career as an aerospace design engineer in beautiful Burbank. The first month, we searched for a suitable place to live.  The one major requirement made by RM was space for a woodworking shop to accommodate his budding interest in furniture making.  This desire was fueled by his recent purchase of a Shopsmith Mark 5 multipurpose tool.  Fond of your Swiss Army Knife and its potential uses?  Then the Mark 5 is a tool for you.  It is a sander, a drill press, a router, a lathe, a table saw and more — all in one Inspector Gadget inspired machine.  But it needs ample space to operate.

I had envisioned an apartment or condo in a complex with a nice pool surrounded by palm trees but instead we made one of the many compromises over the years in our marriage, and signed a lease to a small apartment near Los Feliz Boulevard in Glendale next to Griffith Park and just a hop and skip over to Hollywood.  I liked the location, he got a shop.

Our apartment was located over a garage in the back of a residential home occupied by another renter. The place was well-maintained, clean, in a low to middle class neighborhood, and had a back lot for a small garden which included a lovely lemon tree. RM voted for this living arrangement because he had the rights to the garage below the apartment for his wood shop. Of course, our cars parked outside in the elements as they continue to do so to this day due to his hobby, along with his propensity for collecting parts and raw materials.  I am not complaining as our home is filled with his lovely work but just stating facts to emphasize his need for space.

When we signed the lease, we didn’t realize the proximity to a very busy Taco Bell that was located just on the other side of the cement wall.  We also didn’t realize how thin the walls were in this apartment.  Not only did I get to hear the sounds of a busy woodworking shop below –  that Mark 5 could put out some white noise – but the fatal malady to our happy first home was the amplified voices of the fast food orders coming through the speaker at the Taco Bell discussing options like Nachos Bell Grande or “do you want a drink with that?” at all hours of the day and night.  I have to give the staff at the Bell credit, they were consistent with their greeting of “Welcome to Taco Bell, may I take your order?” or “Would you like hot, medium or mild sauce with that?”  The sounds of the orders and multiple options over and over again was akin to the annoyance one gets with lots of repetitive noise like a person chewing loudly, a workmate snapping gum, water dripping in your sink or the constant clearing of a loved ones throat.

We both developed the condition which I later learned is called misophonia or literally, hatred of sound.  Not much research had been done on this sickness but the sound of fast food ordering through the loud-speaker even to this day triggers the condition and continues to bug us both. When we hear the echoing voice through the speaker, it triggers anxiety, our heart rate goes up, we might sweat a little and then our usual tendency is to just get away from the noise as quickly as possible.

Today, we avoid ordering through the drive-thru and instead opt to park and go in. We never eat at Taco Bell. It is the amplified voice that still sends us both up the wall even thirty or more years later.  So my advise to you all is to be sure you sleep one night in any place you pick to rent or buy before signing a contract, so that you avoid a morning greeting of “Welcome to Taco Bell, may I take your order?”



Motherhood Memories

Motherhood Memories

Memories of my mom.


  1.  She did a lot of laundry including ironing sheets before cotton blend and polyester came on the market.
  2. She favored cooking casseroles.
  3. She had great legs.
  4. She was patient.
  5. She let me style her hair.
  6. She read a lot of books about Watergate.
  7. She loved me.
  8. She let me jump on my bed.
  9. She liked the television show, Dark Shadows.
  10. She loved gardening.

She helped all of her brood learn the importance of making great memories.  Miss you everyday, Mom, but a little bit of you is in all of us.

Happy Mother’s Day 2017!

Jute Flower Pot

Jute Flower Pot

Stymied by a steady, cold rain this week-end barring the garden gate to our Mom and Daughter grass seeding and sod project,  C3 and I audibled for crafts and wine while we waited for the Kansas April showers to rumble through.

We played a lot of frisbee with Scout too.

We drove through torrents of rain to the Depot for sod in case the weather cleared and we also picked up a cheap plastic hanging pot, potting soil and jute twine.  All females in my brood have glue guns but you will need one for this project.  All Texans pack glue guns.

This craft is perfect for two.  One to operate the glue gun and adhere the twine and another to turn the pot. Just check to be sure the twine is lining up close and there aren’t a lot of gaps. We wrapped the plastic hanging basket wires too for that extra something something.

Thank goodness the sun finally peeked out so we could get outside and enjoy nature, seeding and sodding a lawn and planting spring flowers, pole beans and finding the perfect spot for our DIY jute pot.

My Waffle House

My Waffle House

We woke up to a steady rainfall and rumbling tummies  Not sure why rain equates to craving waffles on this drizzly morn but it did. I am not a fan of Waffle House because it is essentially a little, yellow box of grease so I broke open the newly acquired, The Love and Lemons Cookbook, by Austin author Jeanine Donofrio, and decided to test drive a new recipe titled Vegan Carrot Waffles. RM groaned behind me as he peered over my shoulder at the title of the recipe.  #WaffleHouse is trending in his mind. My healthy cooking preferences often tests his middle of America meat, potato, vegetable mentality. But I ignored his whimpers because when I reviewed the ingredient list, while vegan, these waffles were also dairy free. And the carrots made sense because who doesn’t love a good carrot cake?

We have two family members whose bodies recently have declared war on dairy in any form. But they still love waffles.  So Mom wanted to give this waffle recipe a shot so when they visit next time we can pull out the beloved Texas shaped waffle maker and whip up a batch. Admit it, how many states are so proud they have a waffle iron shaped to their image? Ok, Colorado, maybe, since it is the state most resembling a square or perhaps, Wyoming? Which one is more Belgian waffle-like to you, dear reader.

Back to the recipe.

In a bowl, combine 2 cups of whole wheat flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 2 Tablespoons ground yellow flax (I keep a baggie full in my freezer, don’t you?) and 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon.

In another bowl, combine 1 cup grated carrots (about 3 medium size ones), 2 cups almond milk at room temperature, 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil (I pick this item up at Trader Joe’s (TJ’s)), 1 tsp. of your best vanilla, 2 Tablespoons of real maple syrup and a dash of sea salt.

Fold the carrot goo into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Cook the batter in a preheated waffle iron.  They come out fluffy but crisp on the edges.   Serve with maple syrup (and a little bit of butter if you dare), fresh berries and mint from your garden.   A side of bacon can’t hurt especially on such a mucky Sunday morning.  I cook my bacon on a cookie tray in a hot oven.  You may elect to sprinkle a little honey and smoked black pepper on the strips before baking (put down some aluminum foil on the pan first for easy clean up). I like my bacon crunchy too.

This is one hearty breakfast.  A Texas-sized waffle will fill you up.

Now that the sun it out, go out and plow the back forty. It never stays wet and dreary for long in the Lone Star State.

You should check out the author’s Love and Lemons blog for more wholesome, yummy options. Pretty pictures too.







Why I Played

Why I Played

I fell in love with basketball when I was a very little girl of six or seven, maybe even younger.  I still love it and plan to play a game of HORSE with RM this week-end if the weather cooperates.  If you don’t know what HORSE is, I am sorry because you have missed out.   I have probably played a thousand rounds of HORSE in my lifetime.  Such fond memories of time spent with my dad out on the concrete basketball court shooting hoops. He always had a court poured immediately,  at each house we lived in, before he thought to remodel the bathrooms or applying a fresh coat of paint.

dad's team Newton
Dad – third tallest.
Basketball was a big deal for my dad and for our small Kansas town. The grownups started us early learning to dribble, pass and do layups from either side (left or right).  I played with my brother and their friends which improved my game considerably.  I practiced all the time on our court and started playing on teams as soon as that was an option.  Coach Groves focused on the fundamentals and we practiced those skills over and over again until we mastered them.   We didn’t have select teams back then but Dad would get the keys for the Jr. High gym so we could get in and shoot around during the summer and on school breaks.  He challenged me to make 25 free throws without missing and I eventually developed such an accurate shot that I was asked by coach to shoot most technical foul shots for my hometown team. Older girls from the high school team mentored us early on and we scrimmaged against them when we were in middle school.

My dad paid for me to go to basketball camps during the summer where I developed my skills even further and also made new friends and learned from other girls. These camps were held on university campuses.  It was a blast but I don’t know if I have ever been as tired as I was after a week of basketball practice all day long for a week. And the blisters on my feet proved it.


But what I now appreciate from the years I spent playing point guard is what it taught me for life.    I played and learned to:

  • be physically active and fit
  • develop life skills like leadership and resiliency
  • have fun and provide for emotional well-being
  • be with my friends (boys and girls)
  • be on a team

Playing basketball helps young girls learn basic coordination and team-building skills with an added bonus of making new friends along the way. My father and I have passed the love of the game onto my family as we are in the middle of March Madness with our beloved University of Kansas Jayhawks on the road to the Elite 8.

So if you have a young girl in your life, pump up a basketball, find a basketball court, and play a game of HORSE with her.  It may change her life, like it did mine. Thanks, Dad.

Combining love of basketball with love of travel

H-O-R-S-E is a game played by two people on a basketball court. The idea of the game involves matching baskets. The player who makes shots that the opponent does not duplicate, wins the game. Example: The second person shooting must duplicate the first person’s shot, if it is made. If the second shooter misses, he/she receives the letter “H”. If the first person’s shot is missed, the second shooter may attempt any shot. If his/her shot is made, the opponent is obligated to duplicate it. Each time a shooter misses a shot that he/she attempted to duplicate, a letter is “awarded”. The game continues until one person accumulates 5 letters or H-O-R-S-E. The Rules 1. The person who will shoot first will be determined by coin flip or basket shot. 2. Shots can be attempted from anywhere on the court. No dunking or stuffs. 3. Shots may be “slop” shots or “called” shots. “Called” shots must be made as the call indicates or counts as a miss. “Called” shots must be called before the shot. “Called” shots are as follows: a. Bank – off backboard and into basket, may touch rim. b. Bank Swish – off backboard and into basket without touching rim. c. Straight In – must go into basket without touching backboard or rim. d. Swish – directly into basket without touching backboard or rim. e. Opposite Hand – if shooter is right handed the shot is attempted with left hand and vice versa. f. Jump Shot – both feet off court when ball is released. g. Set Shot – both feet in contact with court when ball is released. h. Hook Shot – ball is released in arch over the body. 4. Trick shots involving spins and ball movement prior to release are not allowed. 5. No shot may be attempted twice in a row from the same spot to give the opponent 2 consecutive letters. 6. All games will be self-officiated on the honor system. 7. Match – best 2 out of 3 games.

Casserole Queen

Casserole Queen

Not everything retro needs to return and the highly processed casserole or hot dish is one that needs to remain in the past.  My mom was the casserole queen of Main Street (we really did live on Main Street) in Anytown, USA in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Give mom a pantry stocked with Campbell’s Soup, a freezer full of Birds Eye vegetables and a protein and she had a hearty meal on the table in 30 minutes or less.  Oh, yeah, don’t forget the carb (rice, noodles, or biscuit).

Queen of the Casserole

Casserole was her nightly “go-to” for this busy working mom due to its versatility, as well as the time-saving aspect of literally throwing everything in the ingredient pool at once. But most importantly how economical these oven-baked creations were for her raising a family of four kids, three of the growing boy, eating machine variety.  Casseroles were everywhere back then.  In school lunches, at potluck dinners and always at church suppers. Taste was never the point, it was how quickly and cheaply, it could get to the table.  These dishes were so full of salt and other highly addictive, unnatural, preservatives that we soon grew to love, crave, the comforting taste of the goo.

Recipes from Attendees at my Wedding Shower

I still love the stuff. Green bean casserole anyone?  But I no longer use canned soup (RM still tries to slip celery and mushroom soup into the pantry), use more fresh vegetables and limit the fat, sugar and salt content in our dishes. I still make some of the old dishes especially the ones from my hand-written or typed recipe collection but I have found ways to lighten them up and get rid of all the preservatives.

The first dish I learned to make in my youth was a goulash casserole.  Mom’s recipe went like this:

Brown two pounds of ground beef.  Add one can of tomato paste, one can of mushroom soup, one can of corn, 1 /2 lb. of Velveeta, liberal dash of salt, pepper, paprika (it’s why we called it goulash) and cooked egg noodles.  Place in your Corningware French White casserole dish (still have one) and bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.  What’s not love?  It’s a heart stopper!

Other favorites from her recipe box included tuna casserole with canned peas, tuna, celery soup and generous amounts of Miracle Whip with those same egg noodles and bake it until heated through. Or my personal favorite — hotdog casserole made with cut up hot dogs, chopped bacon, canned baked beans, dollops of catsup, mustard and Worcestershire (say that three times fast) sauce, and topped with slices of American cheese. Bake until processed cheese is melted and browned. Takes less than 30 minutes. Good gracious those hot dishes were good. Good eating!  Easy fixing! As the ad below reinforced. And so bad.

To my mother’s credit, she learned that cooking like this was harmful to our health and she changed our diets considerably in the late 70’s with weekly, scratch made bread, Czech-style noodles and yogurt, seeking out local, farm raised eggs and chickens, and lots of dark greens from her garden including tons of fresh herbs.  So like her, let’s leave these greasy gratins and other overly processed colon clogging combinations behind us, where they must stay, for the sake of our hearts, and only in our memories.