Saturday, January 12, 2013

Having a Pita Party

Last year was interesting to say the very least. I worked and labored under the assumption that I was a great success. Wrong-O.

Everything was just swimming along for the two years that I have been in business. I didn't pay one bit of attention to the books, I just handed Chris the receipts from the label company, the container company, my ingredients, gas receipts, insurance, and all those other odds and ends that come along with running your own food business.  I didn't give a hoot about seeing the bottom line. I didn't want to be bothered with it.  I was having a hard time just making and taking the orders. I had no time to play with my sons. I hated cooking dinner for the family because I cooked all day for others. I couldn't play with my food, everything is so strict and by the book if you have a food business, it is not fun and games.

Pots, pans and cooking utensils all have to be washed and dried a certain way, by hand, which takes a lot of time.  Floors, counters and sinks have to be disinfected before you think about putting a cutting board down. Hair tied back and capped, apron on, hands washed at the hand wash station. Cook only by your recipe that is on file.  Exactly as it is. Package with a food grade plastic bag and seal with a heat thingy. Box. Label. Freeze. Invoice. Deliver. Wait. Wait. Wait to be paid.

I was always stressed out because of a deadline looming over me, and me alone. I have a bit of an anxiety issue when it comes to people. If they look at me funny (or pretend I'm not there) or address me in a lukewarm fashion, I start to feel like I'm the last one to be picked for dodge ball teams.  I just kept telling myself that I was getting somewhere. Chin up.

Then the storm blew in over the fields of soybeans.  We bought a tractor last year. 25K.  The tractor needed repairs. Another 25K. And then the transmission blew out and we didn't have the 25K to fix it.  It has been sitting in four pieces at the mechanics shop. Then, we had the worst harvest and couldn't recover. I don't know about you, but most people can't afford a 75,000 dollar bath. We had to cut our losses at 50,000 and scrap our dream.

Chris had to find a job that was financially sound, something we could depend on.  So he went back to work in manufacturing.  He handed me the books in November.  I've been depressed since November.

Not only did I not make a dime, I owed him thousands of dollars that I can never repay unless I find a full-time job and put Kemper in daycare.  I only started this business out of shear desperation so I could stay at home with my infant and special needs son who had four appointments per week with a speech therapist and an occupation therapist at 2:00 pm, four days a week.

I have been thinking and thinking, and staring down the barrel of a bill, or quote, of what my labels will cost to stay in business.  I'm completely out of my frozen food labels.  In order to stay in business with making frozen food, including my chili, I have to buy more.  It's 993.00.  I don't have it.  And this time, I'm not asking Chris for it.  He's been through enough.

But, don't lose heart.  I will still make Bangarang! signature seasoning and lollipops.  I have hundreds of labels, thousands of lollipop sticks.  Just waiting for an order for those to appear in my inbox.

I've been so selfish for so long.  I really thought I would be the next big thing if someone could just give me a chance. But, at least I got to do what I always wished for, I taught a cooking class. A real vegan cooking class that people actually paid for and paid me for. I am not a great success and I am making peace with myself.  I find peace in cooking for my family and friends.  I find joy in watching a Disney movie with my boys. I find joy in getting out all of the water colors and all three of us sitting around painting while we listen to an audiobook.  I carve out joy in reading classical literature, learning new words, they are always surprising me. Words that is.  I put on music again for the fun of it. Something I haven't done in years because nothing matched the chaos of clanging bells and alarms that were ringing in my ears as deadlines arrived on my calendar.  I'm researching cooking methods again, reading things like what is paired with this and that and why and who wrote the first cookbook ever, and so on. The history of food is amazing.  I'm taking delight in the sky above again.  For so long I looked down or straight ahead.  You are big if you look at the ground around your feet. You are smaller than a grain of sand if you look up at the sky.

So I decided yesterday not to continue down the rabbit hole.  I'm going to shake it up.  It probably doesn't help that I'm reading Les Mis and listening to the Iliad at the same time.  It was interesting because as the gods are fighting each other in the Iliad  and they are laughing at the mortals, like you and me, who are fighting beside them saying something like, we are in this battle for fun but those guys are dying.  Don't they know that they are but a leaf that burns bright then dies to be replaced by another leaf.   Well, it was something like that.  And they keep talking about olive oil.  Everyone is covered with the stuff.  It is on and in everything.  Hera even bathes in it as she is trying to seduce Zeus to turn his attention away from the battle.

Me, I love the stuff, olive oil.  Cold-pressed, the very first press of the olive.  The best of the best. Organic, absolutely. Extra-virgin, right on.  In the midst of the food fight that is raging in my head, I lost and/or won the battle, depending how you look at life.  I have been in the throws of a good old fashioned pity party for over two months now.  It is time to burn bright again and just have a Pita Party.  That's right. A Pita Party.  And guess what?  You are invited.  And, I'm going to give you one of my million dollar recipes (insert laugh track in here). My falafel.

This was our dinner last night. It was delicious. It was epic.  It was Mediterranean.  I uncorked a bottle of red wine, poured olive oil in and on everything.  I swear my skin even has a sheen on it this morning.

I love my grandma.  I love her to pieces.  She says the cutest stuff.  I remember this one time she told me that her skin was dry because she hadn't been eating enough mayonnaise.  DUKES! (I love that word) That is what she uses.  She's a skinny little thing but the lady loves her Dukes mayonnaise.  I, on the other hand, only love Follow Your Heart brand Vegenaise.  That is my mayo of choice, you know why, because it tastes like Dukes. ;)  Also, I love the word Emoji .  I just taught it to Pelham the other day when I painted some Japanese Emoji on one of the water colors we were laboring over.  Emoji.  It is just fun to say,which reminds me of that movie Overboard where the wealthy guy leaves his wife, Goldie Hawn, at the hospital with her amnesia, in the hands of Kurt Russell, so he could party on his yacht with a bunch of bikini clad women.  And then, the rich guy is forced to reclaim his wife but he is pining over his mistress and her name was. . . . and it's a good one.. . . Tofutti.  That one is a fun one to say too.  Emoji    and    Tofutti.

Pita Party

Pita Bread
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup wheat flour
2 cups white flour (plus more for rolling)
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil

If using a bread machine to make the dough, as I do, place all of the ingredients in the way that your machine says to, you know, water and oil first with salt, then flours, then sugar, and lastly yeast, if that is the order. . . select dough, and let it do all of the magic.  Then continue with the directions for the shaping and baking.

Measure out the warm water, add the yeast and sugar, stirring well.  Let this mixture sit for 5 minutes in order for the yeast to dissolve.

In a big bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Get out another big bowl.  Pour the yeast mixture into the big bowl, add the olive oil, and whisk.  Stir in the flour, one cup at a time until well incorporated and forms a dough ball.  Flour a working surface.  Knead the dough ball for about 10 minutes. Fun right?  It's exercise, just go with it.  Until the dough is smooth, elastic and supple.

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and turn it once so it is nice and shiny all over.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and place in a warm draft free place to rise for an hour.  I just stick it in the oven.  No draft in there.

Take the bowl of dough out of the oven.

Turn on oven to 475 degrees.  Place a baking stone or pizza stone in the oven to get nice and hot.  (Ha, just had a thought about the book Fahrenheit 454~the degree of heat needed for paper to burn)

Take the dough out of bowl and lay it on a lightly floured surface.   Cut it into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface.  Cover the balls of dough with plastic wrap and let rest  (it has worked very hard) for 15 minutes.

Get out your rolling pin, wherever you last left it, after you chased away a dog, or your husband from the kitchen (just kidding), and sprinkle it with flour and smooth in with your hands. Roll each ball out on a floured surface into a 4 inch circle.

Bake the pitas directly on the hot baking stone for 3 minutes or until puffed up.  It is like magic when all the sudden it fills with air.  Wondrous to behold.  Set the pitas on a wire rack to cool and serve with hummus.

1 cup dried garbanzo beans (or 2 1/2 cups prepared beans)
4 oz. olive oil
juice of one half of a lemon
A bulb of garlic that you have used about half, or all of the big cloves are used, and the rest remain
fresh thyme
Bangarang! signature seasoning

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a big stock pot, cook your beans to package directions.  I bring the water, which is about 4 inches over the top of the beans, to a boil.  Boil 5 minutes. Cut off the heat.  Put a lid on it, and let it sit for an hour.

Get your bulb of garlic, lop off the top. Pour a little bit of olive oil over the exposed flesh of the garlic cloves. Wrap it in foil.  Place on a oven proof dish.  Roast for 30 minutes or until it smells delicious.  Remove the dish from heat, turn off oven, and let it just hang out in the foil until it cools off.

 After the hour is up on the beans, get out a colander and rinse and drain the water from the beans.  Put the beans back in the pot.  Fill with water about 4 inches over.  Bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a soft boil, not going over or bubbling too much, not so agitated I should say. And boil until you can see the skins floating around in the boil.  About 45 minutes or less.

Drain in a a colander and rinse.

Find your food processor.

Unwrap each little clove of garlic and toss it into the bowl of the processor.  Take a bunch of the little leaves off of the thyme sprig and toss it in.  Pour in the olive oil.  Process for a bit so the garlic is chopped small.  Add the lemon juice, process.  Add a 1/2 tsp. of Bangarang! and process.  Toss in the garbanzo beans and process.  Add 1/4 cup of water if you like it to be really smooth.  Taste and add more spice if needed.

Serve in a shallow bowl and top it off with a little olive oil and Bangarang! Add some fresh parsley too.  It counteracts and acts as like a deodorizer to the garlic, naturally, for your breath.  Well, that's what all of the health books say, but I don't really find that to be so.  I love to stink of garlic.

What is that old poem about garlic that it says it makes men stink, drink and wink?  I like that poem.

And I have decided that I don't like tahini very much.  It is so bitter.  It's like you are trying to cover up the bitter taste as soon as you put it in there.

2 cups dry garbanzo beans, cooked using the method above, heck you can make it three cups here and just take out what you need for the hummus and leave the rest for the falafel
1 sweet onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
3 tsp. Bangarang
3 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp coriander
1 handful of fresh parsley

Cook your garbanzo beans, and drain.

In your food processor, whirl up the onion, garlic, parsley and spices until well processed.  Add the chickpeas.  Process until some is smooth, don't scrape the beans down.  I add usually a half a cup water here so I get the bottom half nice and smooth and the top is chunky with the whole garbanzo beans.  Turn out the falafel dough into a big bowl.  Using a big spoon, mix well until all is incorporated.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Dig one hand in and grab a bit of falafel dough, about the size of a walnut, shape into a ball and flatten a bit.

You can either bake or fry the falafel nuggets at this point.

I like to add a little oil to a skillet and fry them about 4 minutes each side.  Serve warm.

Quinoa Fattoushy Salad
1 cup dry quinoa cooked by package directions
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into bite sized pieces, so sliced and then diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 - 1/2 cup vegenaise
1 handful of fresh picked dill, minced
1 handful of fresh parsley, minced
1/2 tsp. Bangarang!

Cook quinoa in a little lidded pot.  1 cup quinoa is cooked in two cups water.  Bring the water and quinoa to a boil.  Cover with the lid and reduce the heat to a simmer for twenty minutes. Remove from heat. Remove lid and let cool completely.

In a big bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir it up.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Serve cold.

Tomato Salad
2 big tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme, using the leaves
2 sprigs fresh oregano, remove leaves from stem and mince
sea salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and serve room temperature.

Pomegranates would be fun to serve with this.  Didn't have them but wanted them.

And that was our Pita Party.


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