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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Homemade Gluten Free Sourdough Bread

Forget about your (our) other bread recipes. They're all terrible! Nothing compares to homemade sourdough. This one is time intensive. It's a real labor of love. Of bread. It can take over 24 hours to make, & that's not counting the first couple of weeks to get the sourdough starter ripe (recipe forthcoming). However, I have not experienced a better homemade loaf. Is it it really worth it? You'll have to make it & find out.

Sourdough Bread

1 ½ cups warm water
¼ cup psyllium husk
2 tbs olive oil
2 cups sourdough starter
1 cup sorghum flour
½ cup millet flour
½ cup oat flour (or buckwheat or a combination of the two)
⅓ cup rice flour
¼ cup arrowroot flour
2 tbs coconut flour
2 tbs almond flour
⅓ cup coconut sugar
1 ½ tsp salt

The first step is to gel your psyllium husk. Add the warm water to the psyllium husk in a small bowl & thoroughly combine. In a large bowl whisk together all other dry ingredients. To this add the sourdough starter, olive oil & the gelled psyllium husk. 

Now knead the dough. Keep kneading it. Knead it some more. You can’t over knead it. It needs kneading to fully incorporate the psyllium husk gel & make a fairly homogenous dough. When you think you’ve kneaded it enough, knead it a little more. Your dough should be a little tacky but not wet. It shouldn’t stick to your hands much. If you need to add more flour, you have your choice of any of the flours in the recipe. Just add a little at a time. 

Next shape the dough into whatever form of loaf you like and set it on a greased baking sheet to rise. Cover the dough with a damp cloth & set it somewhere relatively warm where you’re confident the temperature won't fluctuate. Allow to rise for 12-24 hours. It’s a long slow process for those wild yeasts to digest your food for you. 

When it’s ready to bake, half a day or more later, preheat the oven to 400 & bake the loaf for 40 minutes. At this point you can check how done the bread is by tapping on it. It should have a hard crust & sound somewhat hollow. To finish it off, I like to set the oven on broil & give the loaf another 5 minutes or so to really develop & brown the top crust. Viola. So quick & easy. Sourdough bread.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

DIY Aquavit

This is Aquavit (akvavit, the water of life [from aqua vitae]).  It's a Scandinavian institution, a cure all, a drink steeped in tradition, or in this case, a basic spice infused vodka. So this is a DIY akvavit. From our extensive internet research, we concluded that aquavit (I can't decide which spelling I prefer) is basically whatever spices you think will taste good in an infused vodka with perhaps a little citrus thrown in for color and variety. Now that's all cleared up; on to the recipe!


750mL bottle vodka
zest of half clementine
zest of quarter lemon
1 tbs whole allspice
1 tsp whole caraway
2 whole star anise

First order of business: pour yourself a drink (you have to make room in your bottle). While zesting your citrus, be sure to avoid the pith; it can lend a bitter taste to your akvavit (I think I've settled on a spelling). Add all your ingredients to the bottle. Slap the lid back on and make sure it's good and tight. Now prepare yourself for a long wait. Give it two to four weeks at room temperature (the longer your wait, the stronger the spice). Then strain it, and keep it in the freezer. Serve ice cold. Skol!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On the Road Again

This spring everything and everyone I know seem to be in transition.  It's like plates are shifting under each of our individual feet, changing our geography. Two of my close friends move abroad this spring. As for Gus and I, we've recently received some incredible news. Gus has been accepted to the University of Alaska Fairbanks MFA in Creative Writing program, fully funded with an assistantship. He, of course, accepted the offer, and I, of course, am coming with him. We're not moving to another country, but it kind of feels like it. 

We head to Fairbanks in August. We've moved back to Washington for the summer, crashing with family and preparing for the major transition ahead. We're not sure how we are going to get there and we're not sure where we are going to live once we are there. As one plan settles in, another plan becomes fluid. We watch every show on Netflix that has Alaska in the title and wonder at REI gear rated for -40 degrees. We worry about transportation and guess at the taste of caribou. Gus considers his classes and I wait to hear back on my post-bac application. Everything seems so wonderous and immense, frightening and life-changing. I guess a simple way to describe this feeling that seems so indescribable is: we're very excited. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Trail Guide: Moulton Falls

We got to this hike just in time, the weekend right before the snow (four laughable inches) shut down Portland. It was a good thing, too. For months we'd been itching to get outdoors and out of the city.

Moulton Falls is a great hike for doing just that. It's appropriate for basically any ability level as it's a very moderate 2.6 mile loop around the falls with the option to hop on some longer and more challenging adjoining trails. Also, it's only about an hour drive form Portland, and it's very easy to locate.

Before you pull into the lot for Moulton Falls Park you must be forewarned: beware the traffic spikes! I haven't done extensive park visiting in Clark County so I can't say for sure, but I hear that these aren't uncommon at parks in the area. Apparently they are to deter traffic from entering the lot the wrong way. I guess a sign saying "Do Not Enter" or "Exit Only" would be too subtle or obscure. In fact, I think the actual signage can be somewhat cryptic for those unfamiliar with these things as it just reads: "Traffic Spikes." So again, I beseech you, enter the parking lot the proper way or face the most dire and immediate of consequences! Yep, it's shoot on sight.

From the parking lot there is the option to walk down a little path to the right and get up close to the falls themselves. We opted not to as we could see the falls from where we parked, and our time was limited. The actual hike starts up the road. We walked East beside the road and it led to more trails along the river (the signs with directions to the trail were actually helpful). There is a gorgeous looking swimming hole here with a view of an old arch bridge.

We continued up the main trail (maintained a mostly right hand course) and came to the bridge that was visible from below. From the bridge we were afforded another nice view of that perfect looking swimming hole. Past the bridge the trail starts to look more like the old logging road it once was; it widens up a bit and is very hard packed.

A little way down the logging road you'll notice a sign for Bells Mountain Trail on the left hand side of the road. This is where you can try something a little more vertical. I would call these trails intermediate in difficulty. It's fairly steep and somewhat difficult, in particular at the beginning, especially for my recently inflamed lung tissue (pneumonia).

The trail passes or crosses a few mountain streams, part of the watershed of the Lewis River, that are very picturesque, rolling down hillsides through the undergrowth with the sunlight shining in bars through the breaks in the tree cover. We were also afforded some excellent views of the valley below, and the hills on the other side of it, from some clear cut areas.

Eventually, we made it to a stand of newer plantings and decided it was a good spot to stop and eat lunch. We also decided it was a good time to turn around, so we didn't get any farther. This trail was definitely a nice little fix for our hiking habit, and worth a revisit as we left lots of trail unexplored.

Directions: A ways past Lewisville Park, heading North on State Route 503, take a right onto NE Rock Creek Road, continue onto NE 152nd Avenue, and then a slight left onto NE Lucia Falls Road along the East Fork of the Lewis River. When you see the parking area for Lucia Falls, you're pretty close. So keep your eyes peeled (remember the spikes!).

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Perfect Potato Salad

This is a recipe where improvisation and artistic license are not encouraged. Because it's already perfect. I don't care if it looks bad (mayonnaise dressed potato salad probably shouldn't be photographed!). Just do what I tell you.

Perfect Potato Salad
(serves an army*)

4 lbs boiling potatoes
8 hard boiled eggs
8 large pickles
1 sweet onion
½ red bell pepper
2 tbs yellow mustard
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tbs sweet relish
1½ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp celery salt
black pepper (to taste)

Peel your potatoes and put them in a large pot of cold water. When they're all peeled, cut them as necessary (halve some if you have to) so that they are roughly the same size for even cooking. Put the pot on high heat and boil the potatoes for ten to twenty minutes or until they are just tender enough to easily pierce through the center with a fork. Now strain the potatoes and let them cool.

While the potatoes are cooling, chop all your vegetables and your eggs. I like my pickles and eggs chopped large and my onions and peppers nearly minced. You must practice a particular method for cutting the pickles and eggs: quarter them lengthwise then chop them into quarter inch chunks. I will not abide any other method of pickle and egg preparation for my perfect potato salad. If I did, it wouldn't be perfect. Understand?

Your potatoes should now be cool enough to handle. Roughly chop them (they deserve the abuse) into one inch chunks. Gather all the chopped ingredients in a large bowl.

Now we prepare a kind of dressing for the salad (maybe I'll allow you a little leeway on the amount of mayonnaise). Stir the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined, then pour it over the potatoes, etc.  in the large bowl. Gently stir it all together until everything is nicely coated. Don't over do it; you'll break up all the eggs and mash the potatoes.

For best flavor allow the salad to sit in the fridge for an hour or so before digging in. Try not to eat it all in one sitting.

*Not literally. I usually do about one large potato per person plus one or two more because I don't want to be short on the stuff and I never mind having leftovers.