Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Afternoon (gluten-free) Bread

I had intended my next post to be on the second Thai Bodywork training weekend, but
since I got distracted baking bread, I thought why not share it with y'all?  I will still get to the Thai bodywork training, look for that update soon.  

Saturday afternoon.... it was brisk but sunny, I had just finished doing some yard work, and stock was simmering on the stove top.  It was cozy in the kitchen, and I was feeling a bit peckish.  What I wanted was some fresh warm bread smeared with butter.  In regards to snacks, homemade bread is about the worst for immediate satisfaction.  But it had been ages since I baked bread, and with the fall weather plus the aroma of the stock, quite soon I had all the ingredients assembled for gluten-free bread.    

As I've mention previously, I try to mostly have a gluten-free diet.  More on that another time.  (I will eventually get back to all these "another times.")  Gluten-free bread baking is quite similar to regular bread baking, maybe easier.  Certainly a little faster.  Of course the flours are different, but otherwise the ingredients are mostly the same.  

One addition in gluten-free bread is a binder such as xanthan gum to provide thickening in lieu of gluten.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, and some other grains, that give baked goods structure and contribute to the chewy texture.  I've also found that many gluten-free bread recipes include a small amount of vinegar.  From what I've read, this helps give the rising dough a little more "oomp," provides a small amount of the sour flavor of wheat, and contributes to the dough elasticity.  

Technique-wise, there are a few differences for gluten-free bread baking.  Instead of kneading the dough to develop the gluten, the initial phase is basically to combine all the ingredients and to incorporate air into the dough.  Gluten-free dough is much wetter, more like a batter than a dough.  I find a dough scraper the best tool to get the mixture from bowl to pan.  There is only one rising, and then into the oven.  

Top-left, going clockwise - The dough is quite tacky, use lightly dampened fingers to spread.  Once the dough is relatively flat, sprinkle a little bit of oil on the surface, and use the back of a spoon to smooth the top.  Dough after it has risen.  Score the dough before baking.

It turned out the bread wasn't ready until dinnertime.  So much for my snack!  But it  made a delicious addition to our dinner, and I'll have it for weekday lunches.  Give this recipe a try.  It's pretty easy and straightforward, way better than the store-bought gluten-free breads (not even in the same league!), and less expensive than a box mix.  

Have a great week!


Our Daily Bread
from The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook by Mary Capone

Makes one 9"x5" loaf, 12 large dinner rolls, 8 panino (sub) rolls, or 2 boules

It took me years to create this recipe to honor the memory of the great Italian breads of my youth.  Like a loaf of Italian white bread, the texture is wonderful.  It's spongy, moist, and elastic, holding together nicely when toasted or even when dipped in sauce.  Adding a variety of ingredients to the basic loaf will allow you to keep this brand new.  Since this bread is without any preservatives, refrigerate any unused portion.  Freeze unused portions or turn them into Mary's Gluten-Free Bread crumbs.  

2 teaspoons sugar
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2-1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
3/4 cup potato starch
4 teaspoons xanthan gum
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 eggs plus 3 egg whites
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water


1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease one loaf pan with olive oil or cooking spray.  For dinner rolls, lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  For panino rolls, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  For boule, lightly grease two 4" cake rounds.

2)  In a small bowl, combine warm water, sugar and yeast.  Stir just until dissolved. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in warm area for 10 minutes.  Mixture will form a foam head about an inch.  If mixture does not foam, your yeast is not viable or your water was too hot or too cold.  At that point throw out your yeast mixture, and start again with fresh yeast.

3)  If using a food processor, add all dry ingredients:  flours, xanthan gum, and salt, directly to the processor bowl.  Blend in processor to mix flours together, about 3 minutes.  If using a heavy-duty stand mixer, add to the mixer bowl, and mix with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes until flours are well blended.  If using a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and whisk together until well combined.

4)  In another small bowl, whisk olive oil, eggs, and vinegar until blended.  Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix.  Add yeast mixture to dough and mix.

5)  The kneading or mixing process takes different amounts of time depending on the machine you use.  For mixing by hand, this process will take about 10 minutes.  For heavy-duty stand mixer, 5 minutes.  For those who use the food processor, it take s about 2-3 minutes for the dough to form.

6)  When is the dough formed?  When using a food processor dough will begin to mound up in the center around the blade.  When using a heavy-duty stand mixer it will build up in the paddle.  In either case, the dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl in ribbons or thick strands (almost like cotton candy threads) when ready.  Dough will be sticky and soft.

7)  Transfer dough into prepared baking pan or muffin tin.  For panino, shape batter into 3"x4" football-shaped rolls.  Smooth the top of the dough into desired shape with a spoon dipped in oil.  Place in warm area to rise for 40 minutes.  Dough will almost double in size.  If using a warming oven, place baking pan inside uncovered, making sure temperature is not greater than 80 degrees.  When finished rising, score and varnish top if desired.

8)  For bread loaves bake for 40-45 minutes, or 20-25 minutes for panino rolls, until a crust is a golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Note from Tara:  Since I had already brushed the top of the dough with olive oil, I did not brush the risen dough with anything else prior to baking.  If you prefer, brush with the one egg combined with the one tablespoon of water.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Some things were meant to be.

Love does not consist in gazing at 
each other, but in looking outward 
together in the same direction. 
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Candid photo of us chatting 
out the window to our neighbor

My niece Anna was born the day Adam and I had our first date.  I got the call from my sister on the way home from work.  It was raining lightly that spring evening, I took a taxi to the restaurant.  I saw him standing outside the entrance, I waved from across the street.  In such situations the usual thing would be to shake hands, but for some reason I gave him a hug.  It turned out Adam also had a niece named Anna, as we ate we discovered other coincidences.  I thought he was funny, he liked my laugh.  It seemed an auspicious beginning.  

It wasn’t long before we were spending six nights a week together, three at his place, three at my place, the seventh a Sandwich Night, spent separately.  Living together followed that fall.  Fast forward, this week we celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary!

Holiday 20?? with our friend Christina at a bar / restaurant on Lincoln near Trader Joe's (before TJ's). She called us "The Charnlowski's"

It seems longer than six years. It seems hard to remember a time before Adam.
In some regards, I count that meeting almost ten years ago as the Beginning of Us.  By the time of the wedding, we had already combined our lives, purchased a house together, had shared pets.  The wedding was a formality.  I don’t mean to discount the significance of marriage,  or the impact of the wedding itself.  I value the weight of marriage, the all-in commitment.  Although neither of us are really wedding people, we had a church wedding with reception following, and we didn't dash off to City Hall.  I wasn't the sort of little girl that dreams of her wedding day, but as a grown woman I understood the value of honoring tradition.  It was wonderful to see everyone, but, in my opinion, it’s better to attend someone else’s wedding.  All the fun, less hectic!  In the following year people would ask, “So, how is married life?”  We weren't sure how to answer, pre- and post-married life looked and felt much the same, the main difference was my last name.  

While I’m not in any rush to get older myself, like the kid wanting to be an adult, I want us to be celebrating a higher year anniversary.  My middle sister and husband just celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary.  My youngest sister and Adam’s sister both met their husbands in college.  So much shared history, a lot of overlapping life.  There is warmth and familiarity in the quantity of shared experiences.  A friend once said she thought there is added respectability once a marriage reaches the seven year mark.  

Any yet....  I know there are things I wouldn’t have done if Adam was in my life earlier.  Things I love, and wouldn’t trade.  The life I lived on my own made me the person I am.  The universe has a plan, and it all happened in due time.   

February 2010, Anna Maria Island, FL - one of our very favorite 
places at one of our favorite restaurants.  

I’ve been pondering what makes a successful marriage, what makes it go the distance.  As birthdays are a natural time to reflect upon your life, anniversaries are a good time to review the State of the Marriage Union.  Additionally this year, a few weeks ago we learned a dear loved one is getting divorced from his wife.  We were completely shocked.  Floored!  From the outside, they were a couple completely in love.  I always described them as “smitten.”  They spent time working on their relationship, going to couple’s retreats, leading a couples’ group, etc.  Both older and previously married, it was a thoughtful undertaking.  Married only a few months less that us, what went wrong?  How can we avoid similar?  

Marriage is looking forward, together.  Two whole people, content with themselves, having a shared vision and dream, holding similar values and expectations.  Day by day, building a life.   Not losing sight of the individuals, not being cloistered or love-blind, each partner bolstering, supporting, and cheerleading for the other.  Adam has always supported me in my endeavors, and there have been many in the course of our relationship!  I knew Adam was “the one” because he fully accepted me as I was.   As Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Committed:

“People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of it.’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.”

Marriage, like life, is a work in progress.  It’s continuously calibrating the balance between independence and connectedness.  What makes our marriage successful and happy today may be different in the coming years.  Whatever that looks like, I am joyful to be traveling along this path with Adam.  I have faith we will find the answers as we need them.  As Ms. Gilbert also says in Committed, “Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone.”

Christmas 2011, Lake Geneva, WI

Monday, October 8, 2012

Inside Studio Gang and Museum Visitors!

Looking from inside the exhibition out to Griffin Court

"Why couldn't you make me an architect? You know I always wanted to pretend that I was an architect."  
~ George Costanza, Seinfeld, episode"The Marine Biologist"

Early last week I made it to the "Building: Inside Studio Gang Architects" exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago. As you may recall from previous exhibition visits, I sometimes procrastinate and catch the show just before it closes. I actually made it to this one fairly early in the run. I was curious about the "rope rooms" I had heard about from my colleagues.

First, a little about Studio Gang.  Founded by Jeanne Gang in 1997, "Studio Gang is an international practice whose work confronts pressing contemporary issues. Conceived as a collective of architects, designers, and thinkers, the studio acts as a lab for testing ideas on varying scales: from cities to environments to individual buildings’ unique material properties."  Studio Gang is based here in Chicago.  They work both locally and internationally.  One of their recent buildings, Aqua Tower, is a fun addition to the Chicago skyline.  And, if I may speak frankly, Jeanne Gang is younger than you might think (according to Wikipedia she was born in 1964).    

Aqua Tower is the "shorter" building (it's 86 stories) to the right 
behind Pritzker Pavilion (by architect Frank Gehry).
This photo doesn't capture the building's fluidity. 

This exhibition was not in the "big" "main" Regenstein exhibition hall in the Rice Building, but the rotating galleries the Architecture and Design department gained for this purpose upon the opening of the Modern Wing.  

The exhibition has two main areas.  The first is devoted to some of the recent projects of the firm.  Projects were further divided into four categories:

  • Nature | Northerly Island, Chicago
  • Density | Aqua Tower, Chicago
  • Community | Hyderabad Tellapur 02, Hyderabad, India
  • Performance | Kaohsiung Maritime Museum and Popular Music Center, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

A whole city of models from their projects!  

In between the two areas was a brief display on Studio Gang solutions for problems created by architecture.  

The second area of the exhibition focused on the how - methods the studio uses to realize their projects.

Looking back at the exhibition from the staircase in Griffin Court

A benefit of being employed at a city landmark is that now and then friends and family come and see you at work!  In the later part the week my sister-in-law brought her kids to visit on a day off school.

Kevin's favorite part of visiting Aunt Tara at work - the model of the museum
and Millennium Park.  Kevin demonstrates where "The Bean" 
would be, if the model had a Bean.

The view from the conference room.

More view.

Looking at more models.

Michael goes Godzilla on the museum.

Genevieve is a natural teacher!

Obligatory pose on the Grand Staircase.

So much museum!

Michael checks out the newest paperweight addition,
Honey Bee Swarm with Flowers and Fruit, by Paul Stankard

I wasn't able to stay with Genevieve and kids the entire visit, but suggested they check out the Studio Gang exhibit, based on how much the boys liked the architectural models.  It was a big hit, kid approved!  The boys can't wait to build their own models.

I will leave you with a short time lapse video of the Studio Gang installation, with an audio segment by Jeanne Gang.   

"Architecture defines who we are."  

How are you defining the environment?

Until next time!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Compassion in Action - Thai Bodywork Weekend One

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand
(Thinking of the song "One Night in Bangkok"?  Yeah, me too.)

Tom Dee, Dai Dee
Tom Chua, Dai Chua

Do Good, Get Good
Do Bad, Get Bad

~ Ancient Thai saying

Sawadee ka!  Hello!  (for the guys out there, it's "Sawadee krup!")  Sorry for the absence in blog posting, it is my intention to post at least once a week.  The previous weekend I began a six month training in Thai Bodywork, and I was occupied Thursday evening (after teaching yoga twice and a full day at the office), all day Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  In between I was trying to do all the usual stuff weekend stuff.  This past weekend I was a busy little harvest squirrel, but more on that another time.

So, what is Thai Bodywork?  You may have heard of Thai Massage or Thai Yoga Massage.  All are likely referring to the same thing.  In the U.S., "massage" is practiced by a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT).  So, unless you're a LMT, another term should be used.  Thai bodywork is sometimes "called 'lazy person's yoga' because the receiver can simply relax while someone else puts them through various postures." (Thai Massage Sacred Bodywork by Ananda Apfelbaum)  A more restorative one-on-one yoga session and Thai bodywork do share some outward appearances, but Thai bodywork is more involved than assisted asana.

Me, Bangkok, Fall 1999
The Thai Healing Alliance International (THAI) describes it in the following manner:

What is known in the West as Thai massage is not massage at all, but rather an ancient energy-based healing system that combines acupressure, reflexology, and assisted yoga postures. Treatment effects are enhanced when the patient is fully relaxed and breathing deeply. This traditional healing practice, called Nuad or Nuad Boran in the Thai language, stands in sharp contrast to western massage therapies.

Traditional Thai massage uses no oils or lotions, and the recipient remains clothed during a treatment. There is constant body contact between the practitioner and client, but rather than rubbing on muscles, the body is compressed, pulled, stretched and rocked in order to clear energy blockages and relieve tension. The practitioner uses thumbs, palms, forearms, elbows, knees and feet to create a dance of movement on the body of the recipient. In this process, joints are opened, muscles and tendons are stretched, internal organs are toned, and energy is balanced. The overall effect is one of deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and physical and mental well being.

Nuad Boran (known in various forms as Thai massage, Thai Yoga Massage, and other terms) began to evolve in Thailand over 2,000 years ago. Based on healing principles similar to those utilized in other non-western healing therapies, the Thai system focuses on circulation of vital energy in major pathways called sen. The major energy lines are manipulated, and important pressure points along these pathways are stimulated to help break down blockages, stimulate energy flow and restore balance and harmony.

In general, aside from clothes on and how the body is manipulated, I would say the biggest difference between Eastern and Western bodywork is the awareness of internal energy flow.  Thai bodywork is not a Buddhist practice, but it is highly informed by the four Buddhist states of mind:  Metta (goodwill, lovingkindness), Karuna (compassion, the desire to help others), Mudita (sympathetic joy), Upekkaha (impartiality or equanimity).  The "godfather" of Thai bodywork is actually an Indian doctor, Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha.  He was the personal physician of the Buddha.  Through the Silk Road and other early Asian trading routes, Thai healing practices were highly informed by Indian Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Pho (What Phra Chetuphon) is a repository for information on traditional Thai culture.  Many of the written documents on ancient Thai medicine were destroyed during a seige by the Burmese.  King Rama III directed the best of the historical information to be gathered and inscribed right on the walls of the temple.  Wat Pho is not a single building, but a large complex.  It includes a school for study of Thai bodywork.  I can't believe I visited there, and didn't get a Thai massage!  I guess all the more reason to return to Thailand.  :-)  

On my next trip to Thailand, a trip to the north is in order.  The visit in 1999 took me to Bangkok (at the southern end of the non-peninsula mainland portion), the island of Phuket (mid-way down the peninsula, off the west side), and some locations in Vietnam and Hong Kong.  I am studying with Paul Fowler of Blue Lotus Thai Healing Studies .  His primary teacher, Ajahn Pichest Boonthumme (known as "Pichest"), resides and instructs near Chiang Mai (in the northern part of the mainland portion, towards Myanmar ("But it will always be Burma to me.") and Laos).  We begin each class with Wai Khru, honoring the teacher.  Not only the direct instructors, but the ancient lineage of all who have come before.  

I have a lot more to share on the topic of Thai bodywork, and I'm only one weekend in! I'll bring you along on the other five weekends.  To wrap up, a few photos of the first weekend, and some others of the trip to Asia in Fall 1999.


The agenda for Saturday's class.

The mats all ready for practice.

Tammy (one of the assistants) gives feedback to Cathie.

Larry and Natasha practicing.

How Thai bodywork students spend the last bit of lunch break.

I think this is in Ha Noi, but not positive.
I am wearing my hair almost exactly the same way at this moment.
Not sure if I'm aging gracefully or need a hair update!


Hiking near Sa Pa, Vietnam

Hiking near Sa Pa, Vietnam.
The local girls all approach with their wares.
"Buy me, buy me!  I bought the bracelet in my hand.

Hiking near Sa Pa, Vietnam.
I love those sandals, still have them and are in great shape. 
Teva 'Terradactyl' have carried me all over the world.  

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
The boat broke down while out on tour, oh boy!