Monday, November 29, 2010

Another Try at Food Blogging

Secretly, I harbor a desire to be a popular food blogger like Pioneer Woman or Smitten Kitchen..  I'm not sure why, because while I enjoy baking and cooking, I much prefer reading or other pursuits to making bread or pizza.  I also found when I tried food blogging back in August while we discussed Father Leo's book,  I don't have the patience to make everything look lovely and upload all the photos (it seems to take me a long time when I do this).

This past week I made several pizzas from Thursday Night Pizza.   My sous chef (or rather I was hers) was my 12-year-old daughter, who, as it turns out, is an ace at kneading dough and crafting the pizzas.   We're planning to do a get-together with her classmates soon to make a group of the pizzas, so this was a great test cook for that.

The pizzas looked awesome, in addition to tasting great.  My husband and I really enjoyed the Rotola Pizza, but the kids did not much--not sure why.  When we make more pizzas from the book, we plan to make the Spicy Thai Chicken Peanut Pizza and the Apple Pie Pizza, along with a few more traditional ones.

My daughter is also an ace at taking the photos, a skill she inherited from her talented photographer father (he's not a professional photographer, but he could be!).  So even if I'm not Pioneer Woman, I've got a daughter in the running, merely on her excellent photography skills.

Here is the process:

Here is the yeast proofing in the bowl.

Next, flour is mixed in to make a wet dough.
While the dough rises, we made the 8-minute pizza sauce. It starts with crushed tomatoes.

Now, spices and garlic is added, along with a few other ingredients, and the sauce cooks stovetop.
One the dough is ready, it is stretched out on a floured board.

Then it's carefully moved over to the preheated pizza stone, and sauce and cheese are added.

Here's the Rotola Pizza ready to go into the oven (it was the second one in).  It's covered with Rotola, which is a roll of fresh mozarella and prosciutto.  It was actually easier than a regular pizza but looks fancier.  Now here are some of the finished pizzas.  First is a plain four-cheese pizza:

Doesn't that look beautiful?  It was very tasty.
Here's a closer view.  I told you my 12-year-old daughter takes good photos.
Here's a photo of the Rotola Pizza after it baked.  This photo shows my preferred method of cutting pizzas--with a scissors.  Some think I'm strange, but I find it much easier than either a pizza cutter or a knife.

Thanks for sharing my second adventure in food blogging.  I won't be making the other pizzas this month, but if I do make them in the next week or so I will try to post some photos of the unusual pizzas.  Have you tried any unusual or good recipes this month?  Share away in the comments.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Brother Jerome's" Corn Muffins

Here’s the recipe for the Corn Meal Muffins that Brother Jerome makes in Father Dominic Garramone's new children's book, Brother Jerome & The Angels in the Bakery.   Thanks, Father Dominic, for sharing this great recipe!

1 cup of milk at room temperature
1 beaten egg
¼ cup of vegetable oil or melted shortening
1 cup yellow cornmeal
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
Colored sugar or sprinkles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine egg, milk, and oil in a medium size bowl and stir to mix.  Place cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a sifter and sift into the milk mixture.  Stir until just blended but do not over-mix.

Using a ¼ cup measure, drop batter into well-greased muffin tins; sprinkle tops of muffins with colored sugar.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until edges of muffins are lightly browned.   Let cool slightly and serve warm.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Exclusive Q&A with "Baking Priest" & Author Father Dominic Garramone

Congratulations on your two new books—they are both great!  Tell me about how it happened that you have two books coming out at the same time.

Thursday Night Pizza came about because I was getting a reputation as a gourmet pizza maker.  I started making pizzas for our community’s recreation night on Thursdays, and that eventually expanded into pizza parties and fundraisers, so word got around.  My publisher was at one of these functions last December, and after he sampled my Carbonara Pizza, he said, “We have to do a pizza book!”  So I got to work right away, and finished the book while spending a week in a cabin at Lake Thunderbird near Henry, IL.  I finished writing Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery long before the pizza book, but it took a while to find an illustrator and for him to create the artwork.   We worked hard to get both books out in time for Christmas.

My children loved Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery.   Did you have any kid “testers” for the book, and what was your inspiration in wanting to write a children’s picture book?

Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery started out as a children’s play for my summer theatre program at the Academy back in 2004.  So our test market was that audience of parents and children, and the response was so enthusiastic I knew it could be a book.  We actually hope to produce an entire series of Brother Jerome stories.

How do you think parents and teachers can use Brother Jerome to teach virtues and values to children?

Brother Jerome is young and lacks self-confidence, but with the encouragement of his abbot and a little help from the angels, his bakery becomes a success.  Parents can use the story to teach children about perseverance and hope.  The book ends with several people praying in thanksgiving to God, and then Brother Jerome prays the guardian angel prayer, so it’s the perfect bedtime book!

I am so intrigued and interested by the idea of “haustus,” (a weekly time of snacks and relaxing) and how that Benedictine tradition might translate to homes.  What has “haustus” meant to you over the years?  Do you have suggestions for lay people who might want to begin this kind of tradition among family and friends?

“Haustus” is a monastic tradition whose purpose is to strengthen the bonds of community.  As far back as St. Antony of the desert (3rd-4th century AD) monks have had the custom of having common periods of relaxation and conversation, as a way to refresh body and spirit and to promote fraternal love.  It’s very much like having a regularly scheduled family game night, or Sunday dinner with grandparents.  In a fast-paced culture like ours, these traditions are more important than ever, and we really have to be vigilant to protect those times together.

Several years ago, you wrote a book called Bake and Be Blessed:  Bread Baking as a Metaphor for Spiritual Growth.  Share a little about how that “spirituality” would apply to the making of a good pizza.

In the final chapter of Bake and Be Blessed, I compare various breads to different kinds of Christian ministry and witness.  A “pizza” Christian is the leader (a pastor, parent, choir director, etc.) who can unite a variety of people with diverse personalities (symbolized by the different kinds of toppings).  A well-run school usually has a “pizza principal” in charge!

What is your favorite part about making pizza?

Tossing and spinning the crust—I like to try to make maximum height in the kitchen!

What is your favorite pizza recipe from the book? (crust, sauce, toppings)

I especially like the Four Cheese Tomato Top Pizza, because it uses fresh tomatoes and herbs from our abbey gardens.  Can’t make it in the winter of course, but it’s worth the wait for the August harvest season.

I notice some of the crust recipes have a slow rise in the fridge, to mellow the flavor. What is your opinion of the no-knead bread recipes and techniques (like Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day) that have been popular recently?

I actually enjoy kneading dough so much that I haven’t really explored the no-knead method yet.  But my mom just bought me one of those books for my birthday, so I suppose I’ll give it a try this winter.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Baking Bread as Spiritual Metaphor...Successfully

Once, years ago, I wrong a blog post about about how I envied Michele Obama because she has a nice big staff to tend her organic garden.  I, too, enjoy healthy, fresh organic food, but I am not much of a gardener, and I so wish I could enjoy it and succeed at it.   What drives me crazy about gardens is that it's a never-ending process.  There's always more to do, and often does not look like one has accomplished anything (unlike, say, mowing the lawn, a much more satisfying outdoor task).  

I wrote, "I'm sure there are a lot of metaphors for this. I'm sure there are books for gardeners about how it's like the spiritual life or relationships--if you don't keep up with them every day and root out the weeds every single day, you'll run into problems, blah, blah, blah. But fortunately our good Catholic faith has lots of spiritual charisms and I finally realize that one does not speak to me, or inspires in me more guilt than growth."

So it was with a wee bit of trepidation that I picked up Father Dominic's book, Bake and Be Blessed: Baking Bread As A Metaphor for the Spiritual Life.   I don't have quite the same "issues" with  baking bread as gardening.  But I have never been consistently successful at baking bread or pizza.  As someone who enjoys baking and cooking, I was concerned about reading a book that might equate baking good bread with having a good spiritual life.  Because, just like with gardening, I would be in big trouble with this particular spiritual comparison.  Right now, I need encouragement in my spiritual life, not to be reminded of what I'm doing wrong.

 (I must add here that I have not forgotten the promise this month to try food blogging again, as I plan to make some of the recipes from Father Dominic's excellent new book, Thursday Night Pizza.  The month has been extra hectic in our family, so this will be a late post in the month. )

Bake and Be Blessed has far exceeded my expectations.  It was a very enjoyable read about how we ourselves are like bread, and need to be "blessed, broken and shared" in the world.  Chapters range from "mise en place," about planning our spiritual life like we plan in the kitchen; to "Letting it rise" about the importance of rest and time apart for spiritual growth; and my  favorite, "gather up the crusts" about old age.  In that chapter, Father Dominic's description of a woman's lifelong recipe collection and how it reflected (positively) on her spiritual life brought me to tears.

Bake and Be Blessed  is a great read for this time of year when we are heading into family reunions, and the family cooking and baking traditions of the holidays.  Its connection of bread to the spiritual life are just right.

What spiritual metaphors do you find helpful?  Or not so helpful?   Do you have any books to recommend along these lines?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Two Books by Benedictine Priest Share Goodness of Persistence & Pizza

I can say without a doubt that Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery, by Benedictine Fr. Dominic Garramone (known for his "Baking Bread" PBS cooking show earlier this decade) is a keeper of a picture book.  That’s no small feat, as good picture books are in the minority of those published.

Here’s how:  when I was looking for my review copy of Brother Jerome to get the some details, I couldn’t find it anywhere.   A search of the house found it half-hidden under a certain seven-year-old’s bed.   Even though our son is an independent reader, we have a tradition of reading picture books together, so I had read it to all my kids earlier that week as a kind of “test” of its appeal.    (I’ve done this with other children’s books that have come in for reviews; sadly, many get rejected this way). 

Since then, various family conversations consist of said seven-year-old repeats something chuckle-inducing from the book.  He’ll remember how the angels joke that St. Michael and his armies will be coming down to the bakery for a coffee break, or when Brother Jerome’s guardian angel Gus (short for Gustibus) tells him to open the bakery door and that “they will come flying in.” 

And they do, both angels, and eventually, happy human customers.  Brother Jerome learns about persistence, making the best of every situation, gratitude and cheerfulness, and we learn along with him. The only thing missing was a great bread or corn muffin recipe to go along with all the wonderful, mouth-watering descriptions of baked treats.

That’s where Thursday Night Pizza:  Father Dominic’s Favorite Pizza Recipes, Father Dom’s other new book, fits in beautifully.  At the Abbey, pizza is most often eaten on Thursday night, during the Benedictine community’s tradition of “Haustas.”

 Haustas,  (Latin for “to be filled” or “satisfied”) is the weekly night of snacks & relaxation in Father Dom’s Benedictine community. Because Friday is a monastery day of fast & abstinence, many pizzas would be off -limits, so Thursday night becomes the time when pizza, snacks and special drinks are provided as the brothers play board games, debate politics and otherwise catch up.

I enjoy cooking and especially sweets baking, but I’ve never been consistently successful at breads or pizzas.  Thursday Night Pizza encourages me to try again to make homemade.  With Father Dom’s easy-to-follow recipes and careful descriptions of different crusts, American-style and Italian-style crust (I’ll be going with the Italian), I feel a new confidence to try, and soon.  More importantly, the  brothers’  weekly tradition of “haustas,” of relaxation & snacks, challenges our family to carve out a new fun tradition of our own.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Meet a Reader: Father Dominic Garramone, OSB

Meet a Reader:  Father Dominic Garramone, OSB

1.  How do we know you?
I could be known for any number of things!  I’m a 1979 grad of Spalding, a Benedictine priest of Saint Bede Abbey, religion teacher and drama director for Saint Bede Academy, TV baker on public television, cookbook author and children’s author.

2.  Why do you love reading? 
I used to love reading mostly because it transported me to other worlds and alternate realities---I’m a big fan of fantasy writers like Tolkien, Anne McAffrey, Patricia McKillip, etc.  But as I grow older and (one hopes) more mature, I especially appreciate that reading is such a reflective exercise—it promotes reflection, meditation, discussion.  You always have the luxury re-reading a paragraph or having recourse to a dictionary or reading it aloud to someone else in the room, or just saying to yourself: “Stop---I want to think about this for a minute.”

3.  What are you reading now?
Right now our monastery table reading is And There Was Light, the autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, blind hero of the French Resistance---absolutely gripping.  I’m reading Everyday Life of Medieval Travellers by Marjorie Rowling, as part of class prep for teaching church history.

4.  What is your favorite book, and why?
Apart from the Bible and the Rule of Saint Benedict, my favorite book is The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon.  No other book has influenced my cooking and my view of creation as much as this work---a great read for anyone who can see preparing food as a spiritual act and a share in God’s creative work. 


Note from your blog host:  This month's "Meet a Reader" is also the author of both of this month's featured books, Thursday Night Pizza and children's book Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery.  I've always wanted to feature local authors here, and when the chance popped up I was delighted, and resolved to ask him to be our "Meet a Reader" this month, as well.

Thanks, Father Dominic, for being willing to be a part of this feature!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Laugh for Early November

You might, like me, need a good laugh early in the day.  I  recently discovered (via Lisa Hendey of & Faith and Family Live!)  a great group of charming videos produced by a Harvard grad student, Matt Weber, that are Catholic, engaging and fun.

This article tells the whole story about how this enterprising young man started making these videos.

Here's one video on confession.  This brought many, many laughs at our house:

We also love this one, an appreciation of letter-writing, the Mother Teresa stamp. I can't find it on YouTube to embed here, for some reason, but if you visit Catholic TV you can view it. Well worth the visit!

Monday, November 1, 2010

First, What are You Reading? Volume 3

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list/pile to read?

I hope you'll consider sharing yours on your blog (I've abandoned the Mr. Linky for now!) and/or sharing yours here in the comments or on Facebook.  This month, I'm scrunching all my answers into one, because I'm concerned otherwise this might never post.  Happy reading and I hope you'll share what you are reading!

First, what are you reading?

I'm reading a ton of books right now, preparing for December's gift column (don't you agree books make a good gift?), as well as improvement books for January, as in turning a new leaf.  Lots of interesting reading to share.

There are two that I'm especially enjoying:

The Grace to Race by Sister Madonna Buder.  This is the story of an 80-year-old nun who is also a record-breaking triathlete.  This impresses me, because while I'm a triathlete (having completed the Seattle Danskin Women's Triathlon last year with my four sisters--that's a great story for another time), I am by no means fast.  She didn't start running until her late 40s, and still keeps going.  I wasn't sure I would like this book, but so far I am loving her style, her call to vocation, and her sheer energy.   Also, she has a special fondness for the Blessed Mother and St. Therese, the Little Flower, so I'm hooked.

Carney's House Party/Winona's Pony Cart: Two Deep Valley Books (P.S.)
in an excellent new edition. I could.not.WAIT for this new release of an old classic, by Betsy-Tacy author Maud Hart Lovelace, because the foreward for Carney's House Party was written by prolific blogger and fellow Betsy-Tacy fan Melissa Wiley.  I knew about Betsy-Tacy books before I knew about Melissa Wiley's blog, but she's made it so much fun to be a superfan of this great series.  And I was not disappointed in her great foreward, and I'm so enjoying reading this great classic again.