I Do the Best Imitation of Myself

How to Succeed in Bread-Baking Without Really Trying June 12, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lizzyroo @ 9:17 am

Store-bought bread has become a surface on which to spread jam or tuna salad.

When I was younger, I read a book about a little Amish girl who ventured into the modern world. Naturally, as do all Amish folk who dare leave their village, she ended up traveling in the back of a bread truck. Not just any old bread truck- a Wonder Bread truck.

I do not remember how the hell the book ended, but I remember this: the little girl mused over that bread for a solid three pages. After all, she was sitting in a whole freaking truckful of the stuff and yet it had absolutely no smell. And when she risked a taste, it was airy and bland.

Now riddle me this- why in the world would we eat something scentless, substance-less, and flavorless? Because we’re too damn lazy to make our own bread.

Well, I am not sorry to break it to you, but you have no excuse to continue sitting on your butt eating crappy bread. The recipe I found is minimal, effortless, and scrumptious. This is what you will need:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 6 cups bread flour
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water. Now, the VERY important thing is that the water is not above 115 degrees. You will kill that poor, helpless yeast. I like to use a candy thermometer to make sure that the water is around 110 degrees.
  2. Add yeast, stir, and allow the mixture to “proof.” What is proofing, you ask? You’re basically making sure that your yeast is alive and happy. It prevents you from wasting precious bread flour in the event  that your yeast… sucks. Also, if you are using regular yeast (as opposed to instant or quick rise), the grains are so darn big that you need to proof it to activate it.
  • Allow about 10 minutes for the yeast to proof. A thick layer of foam, at least 1/2 inch, should form above the liquid. If you have any concerns that your yeast is not foamy enough, it probably isn’t. Please, please, please use good yeast!
  1. While the yeast is proofing, take the opportunity to measure out the bread flour. I recommend doing it right over the countertop. The bigger the mess, the better, because you’re going to need a floured surface in a bit. Place the flour in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. When the yeast has finished proofing, stir in salt and oil.
  3. Mix in flour little by little. You can use a bread hook if you have one, but I used a wooden spoon, You can also use your hands if you’re into that kind of thing.
  1. Viola! Next, you’ll want to knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth/no longer sticky. If you don’t how to knead dough, you are a sad, sad person.
  • Simply push the dough down and out with the ball of your hand, fold, and repeat. Don’t be scared, you’re not going to hurt it.
  1.  Isn’t it beautiful? Place the dough in a well oiled bowl so it can crawl creepily up the sides. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. At this point, I got so darn excited at the size of the dough that I forgot to take a picture before I punched it. Sad life.
  2. When the dough is so large that it makes you excited and you want to punch it, go for it! Knead for a few more minutes and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9×5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans. This is one of my loaves, ready to be put in the oven:
  1. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.


Happy Baking!


Highway Pow-wow June 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lizzyroo @ 11:18 am

If Sheila could read minds, she would have about a forty three reasons to fire me. As a day camp counselor accountable for twenty-one hyperactive third graders, I found it difficult to get through the day without some inappropriate thoughts.

For instance, I had given all of my kids rather tasteless nicknames. There was Deborah, the girl with narrow eyes whose wispy blonde hair always stuck out behind her ears. She never smiled or frowned- so I called her Yoda. Then there was James, who had tiny ears and no hair. What kind of third grader is bald? In my mind, he was Caillou- though to his credit, he was much less whiny than the cartoon kid.

Sarah was in another category completely. To be honest, she was one of the creepiest kids I had ever met. On our trip to the petting zoo, she had grabbed my hand, looked up at me with pleading eyes, and asked if she could hit the animals. Hell no, you cannot hit the animals! What the fuck? I liked to call her the silent killer because I was certain that she would grow up to be a convicted felon.

It was every counselor’s least favorite day: the field trip to Ivory Park. Out of every weekly trip, this one was on the bottom of our fun list. For one thing, it meant an entire afternoon outside in the 90 degree heat. It also meant that every kid would go home with bee stings, sunburn, and vicious scratches from the ducks that had “attacked them out of nowhere.”

Sarah tugged on my hand until I looked at her. “Will we get to play with the ducks?”

“You will get to feed them if you are good, hon.” I won’t let you within 3 football fields of those poor creatures. “We’re about to get in line, you can be leader.”

I pursed my lips and let out a sharp whistle. “Miss Jamie’s group, line up in THREE…. two,” the kids darted across the gym, nearly knocking each other over. I skimmed the “line” in front of me. One of them was picking his nose and there was a small cluster of people in the middle. However, they all had their eyes on me, and this was as close to perfection as I could ever hope for. For the hundredth time, it had been proven: counting down was magical. I had no clue what I would do if I ever got to “one.”

“Alright, let’s go! If you brought a lunch, hand it to me as you get on the bus!”

As I stationed myself beside the bus doors, I was tempted to slip the driver a twenty and ask her to take us to Chuck E. Cheese’s instead. Counselors always got to take the tokens of the kids who misbehaved to use them for their own gaming pleasure. Last year, I had won enough tickets to get 43 mystery flavor Airheads.

“Miss Jamie, will you sit with me?” Dani pulled at my wrist.

“We’ll see when everybody is on the bus.” While counselors are not supposed to pick favorites, Dani had snatched that title the day we ran out of bologna and she offered to share her lunch with Sarah. Unfortunately, it was not my job to sit with Miss Generosity on the bus. I had to focus on “makin’ sure those damn kids don’t say a word,” as the driver phrased it.

As I climbed up the stairs, the doors closed behind me with a shutter-inducing squeak. This was enough to stop every giggle, squeal, and “I told you so!” on the bus. I propped my clipboard against the front seat.

“Josh, please move to the front… we need two to a seat, guys! Now, Miss Beverly has asked that we have silent bus on the way to the park.” Her request was met with a universal groan. I also thought that silent bus was a bit harsh, but I wasn’t about to cross the former weight-lifting champion of Puck County.

“You guys are not in trouble! Miss Beverly needs to focus on her driving. Now, if you promise to stay quiet for me, you will all get a surprise after lunch. Do you promise?” I tried to add a hint of sweetness to my voice at the end, but it ended up sounding rather fake. I didn’t expect them to be perfectly silent, and I didn’t blame them for wanting to talk. Nonetheless, they replied with the anticipated (if not a bit half-hearted) “We promise.”

“Alright, let’s be goin’,” Bev mumbled. I scanned the bus for the child most likely to talk first- Horsemouth, of course. I grabbed each seat as I headed down the aisle, giving Dani an apologetic nod. I heard Shannon squeal as I slipped beside her. Just as she opened her mouth, I held a finger to my lips. In the seat across from me, Deborah began to cough.

“Shylent bus! Ya’ll be quiet!” Geez, it was a freaking cough. This was ridiculous. Yoda looked at me and began to bite her fingernails with amazing determination. Her face turned pink, her eyes brimming with tears. I took a deep breath.

“You are allowed to cough, Deborah!” Holy crap- my voice really boomed when I put some umph into it. Oh well, it was all the better that Bev heard me. They were my kids, not hers.

“Miss Bev, watch out for…” Dani’s voice caught mid-sentence as the bus swerved to the right. Twenty one tiny screams filled the bus as it tumbled onto the grass and came to a halt. Holy fucking shit. My breathing was shallow and ragged, my arms curled tightly around Shannon. I felt the dull sting of her fingernails digging into my chest.

“Sorry ‘bout that! There was a puppy!”

A puppy. My kids collectively gulped for air in relief, and for once, nobody said a word.

Bev chuckled as she turned the key in the ignition. The engine rumbled for all of two seconds before fading. Frowning, she turned the keys again. The engine was silent.

Crap, anything but this. I took everything I thought about Chuck E. Cheese back. Ivory Park was definitely the most fun field trip! I loved spending the afternoon outside! I loved not spending the afternoon on a broken-down bus.

Bev threw the keys on the dashboard and slid her phone out of her pocket. Crap. Well, it was time to get creative.

“Hey kids, let’s get out of the bus! I think I see an Indian!”

“Where, where?” Horsemouth pressed her face against the window. “I don’t see anything.” She crossed her arms and stuck out her bottom lip in a convincing imitation of a spoiled brat. You can’t fool me, Horsemouth. I see that spark­ of excitement in your eyes.

“You have to go outside to see him!” I rushed down the aisle. “Line up! Let’s go!”

Okay, so maybe this wasn’t my best idea. Maybe lying to my kids was a bad habit. But most of the time, it had come in handy. My kids had never been more angelic than the day I told them that the bears at the petting zoo could escape from their cages. But there wasn’t much harm in a visit from a friendly Indian. Maybe I could deliver on this one. Anything was better than twenty-one cranky third graders.

“Okay, guys, I have to make a phone call! Get in a circle!” They clustered together to form a haphazard trapezoid. New method. “Everybody hold hands and spread out! Kyle, we’re playing duck-duck-goose. You start.”

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and slid it open. Who the hell would drop everything to put on a tribal costume and hide in the woods? Unless… oh god, I would owe her my firstborn child. But it was worth a try. I pressed the number three on my speed dial.

“Hey, Sheila? I have a bit of a favor to ask of you.”




My Petty Attempt at Creative Writing April 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lizzyroo @ 2:24 pm

“Number three, you’re next!” I glance at the crumbled piece of paper taped to my shirt to be sure. Number three. Trembling, I rise out of my chair and walk to the center of the room. I can feel my dad standing behind me, waiting patiently with his guitar.

I used to spend every night of my life in this theater, just watching. My mother was Candide’s Conegonde, wide-eyed Conegonde with a cascade of chestnut curls and a voice that wrapped around music like silk. She was the prima donna of the theater. Every night, I watched the audience’s faces transform when she began to sing. During cast parties, I watched the cast flock to her. I watched them try to make her laugh. I was so proud to have such a magical mommy at the age at which all mommies were magical.

This is my first night in the rehearsal room since she died. She would smile if she saw me now. My eyes are not wide and my stick-straight hair will never cascade. I am not auditioning for a Bernstein opera, I am auditioning for a musical about Loretta Lynn. But my voice will not fail me. I have refused dairy products all day and I have had at least 10 glasses of water this afternoon.

I turn around, not to my dad, inhale deeply, and begin to sing.


I do the best imitation of… Shel Silverstein March 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lizzyroo @ 11:54 am

This is one of my favorite pieces from creative writing so far.

Don’t make me go to church today
Said youngster Bobby James Monet
The coffee there is much too cold
The people there are far too old
My best black shoes are caked with mud
My nose is filling up with crud
I would go, but my throat stings
It’s wrong to go if I can’t sing
The sky is looking rather gray
No one will be at church today!
And the pastor- he seems so stressed
Don’t you think he needs some rest?
Yes, everybody needs a break
Let’s all stay at home, for Christ’s sake!
What, you don’t agree with me?
Well I will tell you honestly
Old Mr. Clark drinks his gin
While reminding me not to sin
Mrs. Crum pinches my cheek
As she does every single week
And the pastor just drones on and on
While I suppress the urge to yawn— what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
There’s a… potluck after church today?
Let’s go to church, this way, this way!


Start spreading the news March 7, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lizzyroo @ 4:10 am

This will be a quick one- I heartily recommend this blog about my class trip to NYC. The pure genius of the posts will make you laugh until you have a stomachache; it will make you cry a thousand tears. Actually, it’s nothing more than an amusing account of the trip, but check it out all the same.



My Successful Attempt at Vegetarian Cooking February 19, 2012

Filed under: Meal of the Week — lizzyroo @ 7:57 pm
Tags: ,

I am much more of a baker than a cook, but that is not exactly a wonderful excuse for eating cake for every meal. So, today, I am going to talk about a recipe that I am extremely proud of: vegetarian chili. The beauty of chili is that is was originally made to cover up the taste of cheap cuts of meat. Thus, it is truly difficult to tell that the vegetarian burger crumbles are fake. In my shocking opinion, they are actually preferable to ground beef in this rare case.

As with any recipe, you can tweak it to fit your tastes. Here is what you will need:

  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons ground oregano
  • Salt, to taste (approximately 1 Tablespoon)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (4 oz.) cans chopped green chile peppers, drained
  • 2 (12 oz.) bags vegetarian burger crumbles (preferably Boca, as it is less salty than Morning Star)
  • 3 (28 oz!!!) cans whole tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 (1 lb.) bag frozen corn

As you can see, the ingredients are plentiful. This means that you will need to use a obnoxiously big honking pot! Do not be afraid! And crock pot users: please make this on the stove first. Those vegetables need to sizzle.

Heat the pot over medium heat. When you sprinkle water in the pot and the water sizzles, add the olive oil.

Stir in the onion, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, and salt. Do NOT be afraid of salt. I know that certain people are concerned about sodium intake, but it is truly important to the flavor of… just about anything.

“Besides banging harder on the body’s salt gong, adding NaCl to some foods can increase the volatility of certain chemical compounds, meaning the molecules are more easily released to the air, and of course aroma is an important part of the taste experience. Finally, studies have shown the sodium in salt can suppress bitter tastes.”

See? I told you salt is important.

Mix in celery (ugh), green bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and green chili peppers.

  • A few tips: Both the bell pepper and the jalapeno pepper have seeds in the middle that you will want to avoid. The bell pepper is simple enough to chop. When cutting the jalapeno pepper, turn it on its side and cut a small piece off the bottom. Then, turn it upright and start slicing sections around the center. If you do not have a garlic press, simply crush each individual clove on the cutting board with something flat, such as the bottom of a coffee mug. This will make it easier to remove the skin before mincing.

When the vegetables are cooked, mix in the burger crumbles. Turn the heat down to LOW, cover, and let it sit for five minutes.

This next stage is going to be chock full of can-opening. Add the tomatoes, chili powder, pepper, beans (each type), brown sugar, peanut butter, and cocoa. I know that the latter three ingredients sound insane, but they really help to balance the flavors and take an edge off the heat.

Bring the chili to a boil, stir, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer (covered!) for 25 minutes before adding corn, then simmer for an additional 25 minutes.

At this point, you can either serve or store your chili. I think that it is absolutely amazing the next day, especially if you put it in the crock pot on “warm” overnight. Either way, you have a mean pot of chili.

Bon Appetit!


The Music Never Stopped

Filed under: Journal — lizzyroo @ 7:15 pm
Tags: ,

I realize that a new post is long overdue. In the past month, my life has been filled with stress and anxiety and enough trivial things to fill a middle schooler’s diary. However, I have had two comforts in my trials: piano music and family.

Piano music has always affected me in a way that I am not eloquent enough to express. I am especially partial to anything melancholy, wistful, dark, or simply passionate. It is one thing to listen to it, but it is another thing entirely to play it. Every person who plays a piece creates it anew. They put their heart and soul into it; they become one with the music. The fact that every single note comes from the fingers of a single human being makes it so much more personal and intimate.

I was inspired to learn piano because I wanted to create a sound that was purely me, but I practiced endlessly because I fell in love with the music.

Excuse my extreme sentiment. To the skeptical outsider, to someone who is not passionate about music, my words must seem disgustingly sappy.

Last night, I watched a movie that resonated very deeply with me: The Music Never Stopped. It is about a man with anterograde amnesia whose only moments of clarity are through songs from his past.

Anyone who has known someone affected by memory loss, no matter what type, always finds themselves relating to the heartbreak of the situation. The moment the movie began, I thought of my granddad. I thought of the eerie moments when we would have the same conversation three times in a row, but I also thought of the eerie moments in which he knew precisely what was happening to him. One can learn a lot about a person by what they talk about when they are out of their mind and what they talk about when they are alert. I learned that my granddad was still very much in love with his first wife and that baseball made him sentimental. I learned that he was very proud of the years he spent working in a textile mill to support his family. And, through the very end, he recognized my face.

I know that there is some kind of psychological phenomenon to music, though I’m fuzzy on the details. It doesn’t surprise me in the least. It is absolutely amazing how sharp memory can be when it comes to melodies. I once heard a song in a pizza parlor and recognized it as the song played during the credits of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I can play every piano song in my repertoire with my eyes closed, though I never tried to memorize a single piece. I can still sing my way through most of Candide after sitting through my mother’s rehearsals at age 7. I am not boasting of my own intelligence or sharpness. After all, where was that sharpness on last week’s Physics exam? No- music has a way of engraving itself into our brains, and that will never cease to amaze me.

This has been another post of pure fluff- perhaps I will write something substantial in the future. Until then, I will remain an artless writer who has too many thoughts to express.