Weighing white and whole wheat flour

Before Alex and I became a bit obsessed with pizza dough, I don’t think I’d ever made the same bread product again and again (…and again and again…).  In doing so, I learned I had a hard time consistently making the same dough.  Sometimes my dough was perfect and chewy, sometimes it was too dense.  After a long time of shifting guilt around the kitchen (did I not knead long enough?  did I knead too long?  is this yeast not good?  did I put in too much salt?), I finally started eying up my flour.

Around the same time, I also happened to encounter several different articles on food blogs and in cookbooks that were beseeching home cooks (like yours truly) to measure flour with a scale, not by the cup.  This article, by Gluten Free Girl, was especially compelling.  I started talking about ordering a scale.  And then, about a week later, I came home to a package on the door step addressed to me.  Alex bought me a scale without telling me (isn’t he the best?!).

So many things to measure!  We were grabbing stuff from around the house and piling the scale high.  Does Alex’s iPod weigh 101g, like it says on the package?  Why, yes, it does.

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Food and Fleury in Napa

After our recent trip to Tres Sabores and Buehler, we couldn’t wait to follow it up with another trip to Napa. Alex happened to be working in the area (and staying in a nearby hotel), so it was almost by accident that we ended up spending a full day in Napa. Unlike other weekends in wine country, we had no plans, didn’t really feel like drinking much wine and felt great about taking it easy.

We woke up and rolled into town to grab coffee and cupcakes breakfast at Oxbow Public Market. Ritual Coffee Roasters has a storefront there (the same Ritual Coffee that I tried out in the Mission) and Alex wanted to give their coffee a go. He ordered a pour over coffee, begrudgingly paid ~$4, but loved the coffee. I focused my efforts on a latte and a carrot cake cupcake from Kara’s.

After Ritual, we got sidetracked by Whole Spice. I’m pretty sure they aren’t affiliated with Whole Foods, but I think that is the association they might be going for.

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A springtime day trip to Napa: Tres Sabores and Buehler

Now that I’m in the final throes of the semester, it seems difficult to believe that just a few weekends ago we were running around carefree in Napa.  But, we were!  As I was suffering through a round of papers today, I thought I’d look back over pictures from two recent Napa trips and pretend that we were still out in the sunshine among the budding vines with glasses of wine in hand (nevermind my advisor peering over at me from his office).  Here’s some pictures from our first trip.  I’ll have a post from our second trip later this week.

Our springtime adventures in Napa started on a chilly and beautiful day a couple months back when my friend, Christina, was visiting.  Alex, Christina and I drove up to check out a few vineyards recommended by our friend Phoebe (I was so happy to have recommendations — I always feel a little lost in Napa).  Based on Phoebe’s tips, we ended up scheduling tours at Tres Sabores and Buehler.  She knew we love having a good tasting experience (read about our wine preferences here) and she assured us both would be loads of fun.  She was right!

Tres Sabores

Tres Sabores is an organic vineyard that uses sheep to mow the weeds between the vines and guinea hens to eat the pests from both the ground and the sheep.  Sheep = extremely cute.  Especially when they nuzzle together.

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Stinging Nettle Pasta Ribbons with Roasted Cauliflower

In my recent food blog roamings I’ve been seeing Spring nettle recipes.  So, when I stumbled across nettles at the farmer’s market over the weekend I was curious.  I picked up a bag and grabbed one of the heads of cauliflower overflowing from the stands around the market.  I also vowed to plant tulips next year (or, really, plant anything at all…).

Nettles in hand, I took to the internet when we got home.  After inspiration from these beautiful recipes for nettle ravioli and pasta, I decided that was it — I would make nettle pasta!  So, for the first time since 2004, I pulled out my pasta roller. (Yes — that’s 7 years, 4 different states and 3 cross-country drives since I last used it.  Totally absurd.)

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After a couple weeks on the road eating and drinking a bit too much, we’re trying to make this week extra healthy.  So far, there’s been lots of salad, roasted veggies, hummus and lentils (…and a couple ice cream sundaes…oops).  Now we’re moving into smoothies, our go-to when we want to put ourselves on a healthy path.  I love, love, love our smoothies for packing a big vitamin and fiber punch.  We also mix in enough veggies that they’re substantial, while reasonably low in calories.

To make a smoothie, I start with the same base every time (with a little variation here and there):

  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/3 – 1/2 banana (I like just a touch for creaminess and potassium, without giving the smoothie too strong of a banana flavor)

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Pizza class at King Arthur (+ how to measure flour)

Finally returned home today after a couple weeks of traveling:  Oakland –> Aspen, CO (Spring Break!) –> Hanover, NH (great aunt turns 90!) –> San Francisco (wine tasting) –> Los Angeles (conference for school) –> Napa (friends) –> Oakland.  We had fantastic food everywhere along the way, but for now let’s skip over the Aspen leg and keep going with King Arthur.

I suppose I should start this post out by telling you that Alex and I are obsessed with pizza.  Obsessed.  We were making it so much for a while that I thought I was going to need to up my pants size.  Now we’re trying to become a little more normal with our pizza consumption.  But, in the process of making pie after pie we’ve been slowly working out our perfect pizza.  We’re not quite there yet, but we’re close.

So, when my mom told us that the whole family was going to the pizza making class at King Arthur as part of a celebration of my great aunt’s 90th birthday, we were so excited!  About 20 of us headed over to the Norwich, Vermont King Arthur store and donned aprons.

Here’s Alex contemplating the benefits and drawbacks of aprons:

Even though we make pizza all the time, we learned a lot in our class.  One simple but new thing was how to measure flour.  Usually I just scoop it out of the bag, level it and move on.  Apparently, in lieu of a scale, the proper way to fill a cup with flour is to shake the flour into the cup while keeping the cup still.  Our instructor, Susan, told us to try to get as much air in with the flour as possible and to never ever tamp down the cup.

She also said that if we use this technique, we should never need to sift!  Great, because I never sifted anyways.

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