Ignorance is bliss but it’s time to face the truth of what things are and not what we want them to be. We’re only lying to ourselves, hurting ourselves and making the pain last longer when we remove the bandage slowly, instead of just ripping it off. We know the boat is slowly sinking but we are frozen with our fear; afraid to jump into the water, into the great unknown. It’s time to stop being afraid; it’s time to start facing the fear. Rip off the bandage and start swimming; toward solid ground; toward something real; toward something better.
The current pandemic has forced us all to live and work differently, and everyone (me included) is struggling to remain positive and optimistic. There’s so much that we’ve learned from all of this though, so I decided to make a list. Some items are short and obvious, while others have a deeper explanation that might just apply to me. Some might be the same as yours, and some might just be a bit weird.
The most important thing I’ve learned is that I am truly blessed in all of this. I could easily focus on the fact that I live alone, I’m socially isolated and lonely, but I choose instead to realize that I am still healthy, still employed, and I still have a home, and I still have food to eat. So many people have had their lives devastated during this pandemic, so I need to focus on how grateful I am to be in the position I am.
Here are some other things I’ve learned during this pandemic.
There are pros and cons to everything. With the pandemic, the pros are less money spent on gas and dry cleaning, less time spent commuting, and better work-life balance as we commit to the job itself and not the clock.
The cons are that there is less life-work balance. Wait! What? I listed that as a Pro, so what gives? I’ve had to learn to set firm time commitments (8 hours a day, or 40 hours a week or similar) to avoid working too much. Since I live alone, it’s too easy to get up in the morning and immediately sit at my desk with my coffee and start working, just as it’s too easy to check again before bed to finish something I started earlier.
I’ve learnt I can save money by not buying new shoes or dresses – where would I wear them to? By the time they let us loose, they’ll probably be out of style.
Everyone pities the person who lives alone, as families at least have each other, right? Well, with that larger family comes more exposure through each of their networks. Not everyone is taking this social distancing seriously (although most SAY they are).
I’ve learnt that everyone is feeling isolated in some way and I’ve learnt it’s important to reach out to each other, using the phone, messaging apps, and even video apps.
When you only have yourself for company, I’ve learnt that it’s important to like yourself. You have to consciously treat yourself the same way you’d treat a friend; be patient and try not to be judgemental. Forgive easily and focus on moving forward – the same advice you’d give your best friend. When talking to yourself, try to always be encouraging and helpful. Learn to have fun by yourself – crank the tunes, sing along and dance if you can.
This pandemic is dragging on so long, and I now believe we should have just bitten the bullet right at the beginning – nip it in the bud and be done with it! Because we didn’t do that, and because our government tried to not offend everyone, we are starting to feel as if this will never end. If we don’t get it together though, it never will. That’s taught me to do the right thing always, no matter how unpleasant and difficult that may be.
I’ve learnt that if I get up, dress up, wear makeup and style my hair, that I’ll feel better emotionally throughout the day. At least for now I can pretend life is normal. Shoes are optional.
I’ve learnt never to underestimate the healing powers of a dog. They are fairly good roommates, and are a good excuse to get outside for a walk at least twice a day which helps improve our mental states.
I’ve learnt that nothing beats homemade, healthy meals. I feel better, I’ve lost weight, and I’ve saved money. The couple of times I treated myself to restaurant or fast-food takeout, my tummy didn’t feel very good afterwards.
I’ve learned not to be drawn into conspiracy or political debates. It’s healthy to look at the funny aspects of the situation although I think that people who don’t socially distance or wear masks are idiots, but it’s a waste of time trying to reason with often unreasonable people.
I’ve also learnt to speak up to people in stores who are standing too close and demand that they move back 6 feet. Whether they’re 19 or 79. And if a store doesn’t enforce the social distancing policy, I will abandon my cart and flee the store.
I’ve learnt that there’s more safety in smaller stores where there may only be 2 -3 people in the store at a time. It may cost a bit more but since I’m saving money (see #1 above) I’m fine with that. Besides, our small, local stores need our help.
I am dying a little more each day until the time when I am no longer No longer sane no longer safe no longer here Until the day when I will be someone else somewhere else and no longer me here I can’t tell you how to find me or where to find me because I don’t know where there is but when you find it you’ll find me there and no longer here.
The tradition of breaking bread has always related to people coming together and sharing a meal. It’s a ritual of communion and friendship.
I began the quest to learn to make bread when I was in my 20’s. Everyone told me that it was impossible to explain the texture of bread dough – that it was something you had to experience. Since I didn’t know anyone who made “real” bread, I signed up for a Saturday bread-making workshop in Don Mills, Ontario and there I made a perfect loaf of bread. While others couldn’t explain the texture to look for when kneading bread, I can. Tug on your ear lobe. That’s it. Seriously – that’s the closest thing I’ve found.
Having made the perfect loaf of bread, I promised myself never to do that again. That is a LOT of work and I don’t have strong hands or wrists. So I bought a bread machine. While I detested the texture of bread machine bread, I used it for many years to make the dough, which I then shaped and baked traditionally.
When the pandemic of 2020 hit us, everyone started making bread and if you search the internet, you’ll find thousands of recipes for No Knead Breads. I played with some of those and experimented with different yeasts and rising times. For Christmas, I decided to make a Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Artisan loaf. It took me 3 variations to come up with what I feel is the best.
Artisan bread should be soft and airy inside, with lots of holes and crevices. The crust should be crispy and golden brown. I tried to hold true to that while I added in the savory flavours of roasted garlic and herbs.
The list of ingredients is at the bottom of this post, but I wanted to walk you through my process.
Roasting the garlic
I like to use a medium sized garlic with at least 8 to 10 cloves. I cut off the top to expose the cloves and drizzled olive oil on top and sprinkle a bit of kosher salt. It’s roasted in a small covered baking dish, but since I don’t have one, I used a Pyrex bowl and covered it with tin foil. It worked perfectly. I baked it in the oven for 45 mins at 400 degrees F. until the cloves were soft and golden brown. Then I took it out and let it cool before using.
Proofing the yeast
Most of the recipes I found had the yeast mixed in with the flour. I like to proof my yeast. It only takes a few minutes and I’d rather find out at this point that my yeast is not good, before I use it in the bread and be disappointed with the results.
I use active dry yeast and instant yeast interchangeably. I’m currently using two types of instant yeast – Fleischmans, and British Class. The latter is finer and performs better, but Fleischmans is easier to find in Canada. I found the British Class in No Frills by the way.
I start with warm water – around 100 degrees F. If it’s too hot, you’ll kill the yeast. The warm water helps activate the yeast faster. In a large bowl (preferably glass), I add 1-1/4 cups of warm water, 1 tsp of sugar, and then sprinkle 2-1/4 tsp of yeast on top. I stir it all together and wait 5 to 10 minutes, until I see the bloom on top.
Then I know I’m ready. While I’m waiting, I mince up the roasted garlic so it will be ready.
Add in the seasoning
When I see the yeast bloom, I mix in the salt, rosemary, and garlic. When substituting dry rosemary for fresh, remember that dried herbs are stronger, so only use a third. In this recipe, I added 2 tsp of dried rosemary, but you can substitute 2 tbsp of fresh if available.
Mix in the flour
When measuring flour for the bread, do not pack it down in the measuring cup. You want the flour to be light a fluffy. I stir my flour and then gently spoon it into the measuring cup. Add it to the water in whatever way works best for you. Some people prefer to mix the flour in a little at a time, others prefer a mixer with a dough hook (which I don’t have).
I use a Danish dough whisk, which does a great job mixing the dough and scraping the sides of the bowl. When there’s no more dry flour, you’re left with a wet, sticky dough. This is often referred to as shaggy dough. I drizzle the dough with 1 tbsp of olive oil, and roll it around so the oil covers it all.
We’re ready for the first rising. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a draft free place to rise. You can use a tea towel to cover it, but I find it takes longer to rise. Since it’s winter at the moment, my house is a bit cool, so I put my bowl in the oven. Even though it’s off, it is draft free. I let it rise for around 1 to 1-1/2 hours. What you want is for the dough to double in size. If you’re in a hurry for the dough to rise, leave the oven light on while it’s in there.
When the dough has doubled in size, turn the bowl upside down onto a floured surface. This dough will be a bit sticky so sprinkle a bit of flour on it so you can work with it. Don’t punch it down or you will lose the bubbles in the dough. Fold it in half and keep turning and folding it until it’s no longer sticky and it’s stiffer and resembles a dough ball. It’s usually around 5 times. Place the dough, seam side up onto a sheet of parchment paper, place in a bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
While you wait for the dough to rise again, place your dutch oven into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. If you don’t have a dutch oven, use a large pot with an oven safe handle and a good fitting lid. My oven takes about 30 mins to reach 450 F.
Baking the bread
Lift the parchment paper and gently place it with the dough ball into the preheated pot (carefully – don’t burn yourself). Those seams will create the lovely crevices at the top of the loaf. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes. The steam inside the pot makes the bread so soft inside yet crispy outside. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and keep baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf of the shade of golden brown you love.
Carefully toss the loaf out of the pot onto your counter or cutting board. Let it cool and resist temptation to cut into it for at least 10 minutes.
1 head of garlic
1 tsp olive oil
salt to taste
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1-1/4 cups warm water
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dry rosemary (or 2 tbsp fresh rosemary)
8-10 garlic cloves, roasted and chopped
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp olive oil
Cut the head off the garlic to expose the cloves and place in an oven proof baking dish.
Drizzle olive oil over the cloves and sprinkle with salt.
Cover and roast for 45 mins at 400 degrees F.
Remove and let cool.
Stir sugar and yeast into warm water in a large mixing bowl and let sit 5-10 minutes until the yeast blooms.
Add in the salt, rosemary, and roasted garlic.
Add flour to the bowl and stir until all the flour is mixed in, using a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough may look rough and shaggy.
Drizzle olive oil all around the dough, turning to coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a draft free place to rise (I place in the oven). Let rise at least one hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Place the dough on a floured cutting board. Sprinkle the top with flour to make it easier to work with.
Pull and fold in the sides until the dough becomes relatively stiff. Shape into a round ball.
Flour a second bowl and place the dough seam side down into the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
Place an oven proof pot or casserole dish into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. When the oven reaches temperature, carefully place the dough, seam side up, into the pot and place in the oven.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid after 30 minutes and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Remove the bread and let cool approx. 10 minutes before trying to cut it.
This bread has no preservatives so it will go stale quickly. Here are some of the ways I use it:
Warm it slightly in the oven to bring back the crispy crust.
Slice and toast for an exceptional artisan sandwich with your favourite ingredients.
Cut into cubes, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes for homemade croutons to use in salads and soups.
Slice and let the bread dry out then toss in a blender for savory bread crumbs.