Weekend Inspirations: Anais Nin

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.”
― Anaïs Nin

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
― Anaïs Nin

“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.”
― Anaïs Nin

“Passion gives me moments of wholeness”
― Anaïs Nin

“Writers do not live one life, they live two. There is the living and then there is the writing. There is the second tasting, the delayed reaction.”
― Anaïs Nin

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Food Friday: Impress Friends and Family with No-Knead Bread!

 

Yum! Isn't it pretty?

 

This is the easiest and yummiest bread. I actually came across this recipe years ago and kept it in a file folder for about a year before I tried it. That’s because I read an article that said you needed a very high-quality (READ: EXPENSIVE) dutch oven to properly bake the bread. As I was already dreaming of buying an orange Le Creuset dutch oven, I figured I’d wait to try the bread until I had the fancy schmancy million dollar dutch oven to bake it in.

Meanwhile, one day I took the kids to the park and was chatting with my uber glamorous friend from France, who dang it all, knew what good bread was more than any other woman in Minneapolis, so I asked her if she had heard about the No-Knead Bread recipe.

Well, of course, she had. She made it all the time. She brought a fresh, hot loaf to dinner parties frequently to impress her friends and family. Then I asked her: “Um, do you make it in a Le Creuset?” (By the way, I’m pretty sure I had, and still have, no idea how to correctly pronounce Le Creuset.)

Her response? She laughed. “No, I make it in one of those, what do you call it? Corning ware casserole dishes I bought at the supermarket.”

Doh.

Since then, I’ve baked the bread in my SUPER CHEAP dutch oven. In a corning ware casserole dish with a glass lid. In my small cast iron skillet with a cookie sheet as a makeshift lid.

Without further ado, here’s how to impress your family and friends. If you are smart, you will just offer to bring homemade bread to the dinner party and not let them know how easy it is to make.

No Knead Bread in Pictures (The complete NYT’s recipe, including ingredients, etc,  is below)

Day One:

Sprinkle yeast and salt onto flour in bowl. Pour water (I use 1 2/3 cup at about 170 degrees) over it and mix a bit.

 

Mix until it looks something like this (below) and then tightly cover top of bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit somewhere that isn’t too hot and isn’t too cold, for between 14 and 20 hours.

Day Two: Then the next day when you take the plastic off, it looks like this, it has risen and is a little bubbly!!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put it on a floured surface and flip it over once or twice. Using the piece of plastic you had over the bowl, cover it lightly and set the timer for 15 minutes:

 

Then gently, barely touching it, shape it into a ball. Put a little flour on the top:

 

Cover it with a flour sack towel and let sit for two to three hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This (below) is what it looks like after it has sat for a few hours. It is bigger and fluffier. Here it is ready to go in the oven. I heat the oven with the dutch oven or pan inside … and then I drip some olive oil in the bottom. Pick up the bread dough and flip it over into the pan. Put it in the oven, cover it and bake for 30 minutes. Then take off the lid and bake for 15 minutes more. You can see the final product above!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the original recipe that ran in the New York Times:

November 8, 2006
Recipe: No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

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Snapshots: Spring is here.

I took a little walk in my neighborhood down to the market for bread and cheese and caught all these signs that spring has arrived! Wildlife galore. Today I saw bunnies, butterflies and turkeys. But I’ve also seen bald eagles, hawks, red foxes and albino squirrels in my neighborhood. Go figure. Yes, I live in the Minneapolis city limits.
(By the way, that turkey was pecking away at that black car like mad!)

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Writer Interviews: Jeff Shelby

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff and I “met” on Twitter and I instantly became indebted to him when he tweeted about the Big Metal Chicken. Since that tweet, pretty much everything else Jeff has ever written has had me rolling with laughter. Except his books. His books didn’t have me laughing hysterically, but had me engrossed in the world he created. That’s why he is a nationally renowned bestselling author. My favorite is Liquid Smoke, featuring Noah Braddock. But everything he writes is great. In February, his book, Thread of Hope was the most downloaded free ebook on Amazon. Not just for mysteries. It was #1 out of all downloaded books. Woot!

When I picked up that first book by Jeff Shelby, I was thrilled to see that not only was this English teacher freaking hilarious, but he also was a talented writer and storyteller. Add me to the long, long list of fans not-so-patiently waiting for the next Noah Braddock mystery. Here’s Jeff in his own, damn funny, words:

 

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

Uh, well I’d like to…but I don’t have one.  I fit it in around the rest of my life as a high school teacher and basketball coach and father of an eight year old girl.  I’m terribly undisciplined.  I write when I can, but I do try to do at least a bit every day.  Usually ends up being at night.  My routine is to sit on my couch with a Diet Pepsi and see what happens.  If that doesn’t work, I talk to my daughter and my cat and see if they have any ideas.  Fortunately, they usually do.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

If you want to get paid to write, writer’s block can’t exist.  Because it will also serve as mortgage block, phone bill block, food block and bar tab block.  I like being able to pay those things, especially the last one, so I will write even if what I end up writing is crap.  I can always go back and delete.  But I force myself to do it.  I firmly believe – and this always pisses people off – that writer’s block only happens to people who don’t want to write for a living.  They love the romantic idea of being a writer, but they don’t want to deal with the realities.  The realities are that it can be hard and frustrating and about as unromantic as dirty feet.  Real working writers don’t get writer’s block.  Because they don’t ever stop writing.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writers read, in regards to craft?

I think Owen mentioned this a couple of weeks ago when you talked to him, but Stephen King’s On Writing is the best book I’ve ever read on craft.  But I usually tell people to read the authors who have successfully written what they’d like to write.  For me, I studied Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais, Sue Grafton, Dennis Lehane and a bunch of other private eye writers.  I read them critically to see how they pushed a story forward, how they developed characters, how they avoided doing anything repetitious.  Those books are my craft books.

4. Who do you read for fun?

List of books I’ve read recently:  The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, Set in Stone by Beth Balmanno, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Have you heard of this one?  Tiny little book that I think might be a hit), Savages by Don Winslow, Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger.  All of them were fantastic and your life won’t be complete until you read them all.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

In second grade, I wrote a story about Snoopy playing tennis at Wimbledon.  In junior high, I wrote what I call Male Teenage Romances about boys saving girls who then fell madly in love with them.  When I got out of college (finally), I started messing around with mysteries.  So I’m not sure I can pinpoint when – because let’s be honest – no one ever says “Hey, you should be a writer.”  They tell you to go to law school or become a doctor or just do something to pay off those student loans.  I have always wanted to write, but didn’t really think about being able to earn a living while doing it.  I got serious about it in the late 90’s by joining a writer’s group when I lived in Colorado and started to think I could actually do it.  Sold my first book in 2003 and starting wallpapering my homes with hundred dollar bills shortly thereafter.

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Read.  Write.  Be nice to everyone.  Buy wine.  And always push the story forward on every page.  But seriously – buy LOTS of wine.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

I think it’s incredibly important to be able to bash your head into a desk repeatedly without causing permanent damage.  Because there are days where you will hate what you write, where it feels like you are the worst writer in the history of writers, where it feels as if you have nothing to say and you will then bash your head into the desk.  Those of us that learn how to do it without causing permanent damage live to write the next day and realize it’s never that bad and that it’s actually kinda fun.  (I should maybe add “buy a helmet” to #6.)

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

Let’s just get this out of the way:  I don’t eat vegetables.  Or fruit.  So this isn’t gonna be a fancy list.  I love hamburgers and sandwiches and pizza and steak and lasagna and chocolate and cheese and cheesecake and ribs.  There is also a cream of jalapeno soup that a place called The Rockyard in Castle Rock, Colorado makes that I would probably knock you over to get to.  As far as drinks go, if I’m teaching, then it’s Diet Pepsi.  If I’m not, then it’s Jim Beam and Pepsi.  (Pepsi is better than Coke and I don’t wanna hear another word about it.)  I am also partial to beer.  And red wine.  And flavored vodkas.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

Favorite book:  I have two.  Lois Duncan’s Stranger With My Face – a YA paranormal/mystery that I read as a kid and more than any other book, probably made me want to write mysteries.  The other is Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini.  A better book with a male protagonist and voice has yet to be written.

Favorite movie:  I have seen Chariots of Fire about thirty times.  My dad and I went and saw it four times in the theater when it was released in 1981 – I was 11 – and it just struck some chord in me.  The music still gives me goosebumps and the races are still as exciting the first time I watched the movie.

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

I can juggle.  I once stepped on Wilt Chamberlain’s feet.  I was a friggin’ snowflake in the Holidazzle.  I’ve never had a Big Hunk.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jeff, the Big Hunk is in the mail!

Jeff Shelby is the national bestselling author of the Noah Braddock books (Killer Swell, Wicked Break and Liquid Smoke), a series that has been compared to the works of Robert Crais and Robert B. Parker. He is also the author of the standalone thriller Thread of Hope and the humorous cozy mystery, Stay At Home Dead, written under the pen name Jeffrey Allen. A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, he teaches high school English and coaches high school basketball in the suburbs of Dallas, where he lives with his daughter. You can find him on the web at www.jeffshelby.com. You can find him on Twitter @jeffshelby. And you can find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JeffShelbyBooks

 

 

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Books & Flicks: M.J. Rose and Atria’s Great Mystery Bus Tour!!!

 

 

 

BOOKS

Three new books on my nightstand this week:

KILLING RED by Henry Perez. Features a newspaper reporter protagonist, so of course it is on my to-be-read list.

45 MASTER CHARACTERS by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. Another book on the craft of writing.

THE REINCARNATIONIST by M.J. Rose. Picked up this book in preparation for Atria’s Great Mystery Bus Tour and it’s arrival in my city tonight with John Connolly, William Kent Krueger, Liza Marklund, and M.J. Rose aboard.

I’ve probably tweeted or posted on Facebook about a half jillion times that I want to do this bus tour. I want to team up with Owen Laukkanen, Jeff Shelby, Donnell Bell, Jess Lourey, and Joelle Charbonneau. Hey, wait a minute, those writers are all featured in my writer interviews. (Shelby tomorrow and Charbonneau next week) Coincidence? I think not. But in all seriousness, there are about twenty mystery writers I admire and feel lucky to count as friends, including those wonderful ones I mentioned above.

 

FLICKS

 

The Muppet Movie. We’re talking the 1979 version folks. Which the kiddos LOVED. My 8yo pretty much thought Miss Piggy was hysterical, which she is, of course.

The Walking Dead. Numerous episodes. This show is like a freaking train wreck for me. I DON’T want to watch it. Then my husband turns it on, I sit down for say two minutes and then look up and it is three hours later and we’ve ripped through four episodes. Stop the madness. I swear, I really don’t want to watch it and yet, there I sit. For hours. The reason I’ve tried to avoid it is because I knew from season one this was dangerous for me. At the time, my  husband had all the episodes saved on Netflix. We watched the first one and when it finished I said, “play another one.” Then kept doing it until I was pretty much traumatized from seeing so much gore and from sitting on the couch for a marathon six hour viewing session about zombies. And damn it all, here it goes again. Luckily, the spell was broken when one of the kids got out of bed not feeling well (She’s fine now!)

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