Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Baking: Just What I Kneaded (tee hee)

Boy, what a week this last one was! It basically culminated in a big bunch of stress for me. After being handed a big project at work and anticipating another one later this week and tending to my regular duties as an Access Services Manager for an academic library at the beginning of the semester, I felt like crap. Headaches, body aches, stomach aches, sleeplessness and extreme, extreme irritability. I've never handled stress very well at all, and by the end of Saturday, I was literally banging my head against the file cabinet in my office.

I was so happy to be home with my guys on Sunday and Monday (my days off), but the stress of my job just wouldn't leave my body or my mind, and I had this overwhelming desire to make things, to put all of my energy into something I love, instead of using it all up at work and falling asleep on the train and arriving home spent and exhausted and with too little patience. Most of all I wanted to bake something.

This desire during moments of great stress isn't new to me. Used to be when I was tremendously upset over something or angry with someone, I would clean house all day. I'd reorganize, disinfect, fold and put things away that had lingered on dresser tops and counter tops for months prior without my minding. These are the times, I'd take down the crystal from my wedding and wash it, or soak my small jadeite collection in vinegar and hot water or reorganize my closet or throw out clothes I'd not worn in over a year. And this weekend I did do some of those things, but mostly I baked.

It all started with homemade croutons and then moved on to the yeast bread section of my copy of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I made a golden rich dough, which I kneaded forever and let rise in the refrigerator overnight. This was transformed into cinnamon rolls the next morning. Mr. T had the bright idea to glaze them with butter and brown sugar, and they were scrumptious.

Thankfully, most of them were taken to T's workplace and shared with the sculptors and painters of NECA. Otherwise Mr. S and I would have been home alone with them all day.

The same day I made the golden rich dough, I also made Lentil Samosas from scratch (also from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian). This involved making a dough too, but this dough was much less labor intensive and basically just meant mixing yogurt, butter and flour together and cooling it in the refrigerator a bit before rolling it out.

Lentil Samosas are the yummiest things, even though I Americanized them a bit by cutting out the curry and masala since my guys don't like Indian food. I also added added potatoes. Basically I made a stew with lentils, potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, vegetable broth, salt and pepper and then folded it into little dough pockets and baked them all on 350 for 30 minutes. These we dipped in yogurt as we ate them. I made enough to freeze for another dinner, and had leftover "lentil stew" to add to a vegetable soup I made Monday night. Everyone loved them, and Mr. S even asked if he could have them again the next day. Lentil Samosas will definitely become part of my repertoire now. I think I'll make a larger batch next time and freeze more than a couple of meals worth.

All the kneading of dough on Sunday was wonderful. There's something about manual labor that really snaps me back into reality and reminds me of what's really important to me (and it's not administrative reviews and strategic plans). Making dough is such physical work, and it feels so great beneath my fingers. Also there's something really lovely about pounding the hell of something with your hands when you're really upset.

But physical as it was, all the dough pounding wasn't enough. I still had lots of pent up energy, and so I spent Sunday night knitting and making lip balm as well.

I've been making lip balms for years and love making them, but only recently have I perfected my recipe with the perfect blend of beeswax and oils. These lip balms are the only lip balms I use now, since they're the only ones I've tried that don't dry out my lips. I wear them under my lipstick everyday and put them on before I go to bed (especially in the winter). I usually make enough to give as gifts. They're a handy thing to have around when a forgotten birthday comes up.

I also started knitting a new hat this weekend and made pom poms for a couple of other hats on Monday (T and I are making stock for an Etsy shop we're opening in the Fall).

And that about did it for me. By Monday my hands and arms were aching and I felt a whole lot better. Phew!

I'm sorry to say that I'm only in the middle of this week and can already tell I'll be baking up a storm on Sunday. I'll be happy after a couple of days off, but we'll all be fat.

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