Saturday, September 27, 2014

Honey-Oatmeal Train Car...

This is a loaf I made today using my Pullman loaf-pan, which I haven't used in a while...named after a Pullman train car because of it's similar long and narrow shape (in french it is often referred to as pain de mie). A Pullman loaf is traditionally a white and squishy and soft sandwich loaf. The one that I made--the one pictured--was made using the following recipe. Good and good for you...simple to make, too. I heard a quote recently that said (and I'm paraphrasing), homemade bread doesn't take a lot of hard work, just time. And this couldn't be more true.

Whole Wheat Honey-Oatmeal Bread
Makes 2 or 3 loaves
6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 cups oatmeal, plus additional for coating
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
3 ½ cups water, divided
2 tablespoons instant yeast, divided
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Separate the ingredients into two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, two cups of oatmeal, the wheat gluten, and 2 ½ cups of water; stir until just combined. In the second bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of yeast, and 1 cup of water; stir until just combined. Cover the bowls and allow the ingredients to rest and begin fermenting for at least an hour, but up to 12. Then combine the contents of bowl bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining tablespoon of yeast, along with the olive oil, honey, and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two or pieces, gently shape it into loaves. Dust the counter with extra oatmeal and roll the loaves in it, gently pressing oatmeal into the surface of the raw dough. Place the loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Urban Simplicity.

Getting neutral and dense...slowing down a waterfall

So these are a few photos I took today at Glen Falls in Williamsville, NY. I rode there for a couple reasons. One is that I was looking for a waterfall to photograph using my ND filter. But also I wanted the exercise. Glen Falls is a little more than 10 miles from my house and riding a heavy cargo bike 10 miles in each direction is for sure a workout. And yes, I can ride even with my injured leg. Luckily the burn is below my knee so I am able to bend my leg freely, and the physician said that as long as I don't overdo it bike riding will actually aid in the healing process as it will get blood pumping to the injured area. This said, it felt good to huff and puff against a slight wind as I have not gotten much physical exercise in the past nine days. So anyhow, I went there specifically to take photos using a ND filter. And if you need an explanation of what a ND filter is (I'll use a simplified layperson's explanation because that's all I really know), it adjusts the light entering your camera but not the color. So, for example, if the light is diminished--tricking the camera into thinking it's dark outside--one is able to take long exposures allowing things that are moving (such as a waterfall) to become blurred, whereas the stationary components within the frame remain natural. If you'd like a more detailed description of how these filters work follow this link. And if you'd like to see two other local waterfalls I've photographed with this same effect, click here or here.

Urban Simplicity.

Friday, September 26, 2014

And then this happened (and how it could have been so much worse, and why I am so grateful, and how I needed to slow down).

I didn't know it was happening until it was in fact happening. I didn't see it coming. It was the searing pain that alerted me. And by the time I realized what was going on I was involuntarily emitting a guttural sound of which I didn't know I was capable, or as my son later said (who was in the next room at the time) a “blood curdling scream.” I had been squatting down rotating loaves of bread in a lower oven when a five gallon pot of chicken stock on an adjacent stove—which someone had set on the edge—fell, covering much of my left leg. But I'm jumping ahead.

Kitchens, like many occupations, can be dangerous places. They are full of hot surfaces, large pots of boiling liquids, and really big razor sharp knives...and often staffed with over-worked, under-paid, and sometimes inexperienced people rushing around trying to complete their tasks. The first time I took stitches I was a mere sixteen-years-old and working in a diner. I was cleaning a meat slicer unsupervised. Then in my mid-twenties, while working in New Orleans and frantically prepping for Sunday brunch, I sliced the tip of my finger off in one fell swoop. Thankfully it was able to be sewn back on and for the most part has recovered. But it was nothing like this. Because while this was initially excruciatingly painful, this could have also been much worse than it is. This could have been truly debilitating, if not even life threatening.

The incident only lasted a few seconds, but when everything settled the entire room steamed with hot broth and I—or at least the lower portion of me—and the surrounding area were covered in steaming bones, fat, vegetable scraps, and of course the viscous liquid. I landed on my butt, sort of sprawled, and my kitchen clogs lay across the room. I'm not sure but I think I may have kicked them off in desperation.

Co-workers, of course, came running. Everyone was bringing me ice. Before I even stood up I lifted my pant legs, which were stuck to me. My left calf was the worst, but I didn't think it was that bad; maybe it was denial. Everything was red...bright, bright red. Like a bad sunburn. And there were a few silver dollar-sized places where the skin was just simply gone. After changing my pants, and refusing rides from people (as I didn't think it was as bad as it was), I actually rode my bike to the ER—with my pant legs rolled up to my thighs—as Buffalo General is only three city blocks away.

As I sat in the ER waiting to be seen (and they didn't take long as they knew I was in pain) I took inventory of my body. My left calf took the brunt of it, and it was white hot and actually quivering while I sat. There were a few other “dots” of burns on my other leg and foot, but nothing like my left. Keep in mind that at this point I was still thinking it wouldn't be that bad...maybe some medication and some creams, I thought. But what I didn't know was that serious burns are progressive, meaning they can keep progressing for up to 48 hours after the actual burn. And mine did. At least on my left calf.

By the time I was seen my skin was fully blistered. I was cleaned, bandaged, medicated, prescribed, and sent home. Two days later my left leg looked like something out of an apocalypse zombie movie. So I paid a visit to the ER at ECMC which is known for their burn clinic. After the doctor cleaned the wound(s)--i.e. removed the dead skin—I was horrified when I looked at it...large areas of my calf simply looked like raw meat with the skin removed. But alas, that was a week ago and I am improving.

So why am I telling this tale, you may wonder? Am I looking for sympathy? No, absolutely not. The outpouring of offerings has been so incredibly moving. So many people have offered me help and in so many ways, but I have been able to get around pretty well even when it was really bad. And in the same way that I feel uncomfortable with compliments, so is true when people sympathize with me (though I am so moved to tears—literally—by the amount of people who have offered to help. And not only did I accept rides from people I actually asked for them, too). So why, then? Why, am I writing this? Well, in a short sentence...because I am grateful.  

Because while it was a truly horrific experience, and yes it hurt immensely, I am also fully aware of how bad it could have been. And oddly I was aware of this at the very first moment, as I sat stunned in a puddle of steaming bones and chicken viscera. Much of the skin from my left calf was wiped away. So what? I am still fine. If it would have hit my face or neck—which were unprotected—I would not be typing these words right now. And while sitting in the waiting room of the burn clinic and seeing some poor souls brought in on gurneys...well, I don't even need to say anything on that. I am just so grateful it wasn't worse.

And while I am not the type of person that abides that “all things happen for a reason,” I do believe that in most things there is a lesson to learn. And the lesson I have learned here is that I need to remain centered. That in all of the hustle and bustle of life it may be the journey itself that is most important. 

So now as I sit in a cool low-lit bar eight days after the accident with my leg elevated on a bar stool and self-medicating with pints of beer, I am thankful not only of the relative low severity of my wounds but also of this insight. Would I be feeling grateful like this if the boiling liquid hit my face or neck and washing away my skin? Doubtful. I can't even imagine. But it didn't happen that way. And for that I am grateful and truly thankful. I have in fact thanked our Creator more times that I can say (and in a way am thanking Her/Him/It right now with these words). But I am truly thankful. It could have been so much worse. It's the journey that really matters, the little things that I take for granted every day. Those are the things that matter. Because they are all part of the journey.

A few things I saw while riding my bike yesterday...

Urban Simplicity.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Autumn...change is n the air

Urban Simplicity.

Five or Nine Quotes from H.G. Wells...

H.G Wells and his wife Jane on a bicycle
Image found here.

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”

“If we don't end war, war will end us.”

“Advertising is legalized lying.”

“Our true nationality is mankind.”

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”

“What really matters is what you do with what you have.”

“We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.”

“I hope, or I could not live.”

“The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.”

More Five Quotes.
Urban Simplicity.  


Monday, September 22, 2014

Barcelona 1908...

I have posted this video before but not in quite a while. I came across it recently and thought I would re-share. I find it really soothing. There was obviously a camera on the front of a street car--probably a person standing there holding it--because everyone keeps looking. I also find the amount of bicycle really impressive. Anyhow, it you have a spare few minutes you may enjoy this.

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Black Bean-Quinoa Burgers

Ok. So first of all, these are really delicious. Easy to make, too. While not vegan (they contain eggs and cheese), nor are they gluten free (they contain breadcrumbs) they are meatless and can be baked instead of pan-fried (but would not be nearly as crispy crunchy on the outside). This is a variation on other bean burgers I have made in the past, but in this recipe I replaced 50% of the beans with quinoa which give then a really interesting texture. Anyhow, if you like vegetable burgers you should try these, you'll be glad you did (and they can be frozen, too).

Black Bean-Quinoa Burgers
Makes about 8 (4 ounce) burgers

1½ cups cooked quinoa (*info below)
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 large eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded cheddar (3-4 ounces)
1 cup bread crumbs (plus extra for dusting)
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ small onion, minced
½ red bell pepper, minced
¼ cup hot pepper sauce

Olive oil for cooking

 Combine all of the ingredients (but not the olive oil) in a bowl and mix well. Then place half of the mixture in a food processor and puree until a smooth paste. Return the puree to the bowl with the courser burger mixture and combine thoroughly. Lightly dust a large platter or baking sheet with breadcrumbs. Divide the mixture into eight balls—placing them on the platter or baking sheet—and shape into burgers, transferring them to platters. Heat a large heavy skillet with 1/8th inch olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers for about 8 minutes, turning them as necessary, or until golden, crispy, and cooked throughout. Transfer to absorbent paper before serving.

*For 1½ cups cooked quinoa combine ½ cup quinoa with 1¼ cups water and simmer it for about 20 minutes. 

Urban Simplicity.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Madonna on a bike...

This is Madonna on her bike. No not that Madonna, the Madonna of Buffalo. Or at least that's what she told me her name is. I've seen Madonna in her colorful clothes riding her colorful trike for quite some time now. And when I got out of work today she was at a shop on Allen Street here in Buffalo so I stopped and asked if I could take her photo. She agreed, and I handed her my business card with this blog's address on it. She looks at it, then looks up at me. Then she says my name, and "I know you, you're that bike-riding cook-minister guy"...all I could do is smile. We ended up talking for about 15 minutes...about how difficult the winters can be on a bike but that we still don't want to own a car, about reincarnation and our past lives, and why she says a Hail Mary and does the sign of the cross at every intersection. Then later this evening I passed her on Elmwood Avenue, both of us calling each other's names as we passed. Nice. I'm finally glad to have met you, my eccentric friend.

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fortune Cookie Philosophy (sort of)...

These are two "fortunes" that my son and I received in our fortune cookies the other, not exactly what I was hoping for. Looks like there is a bored prankster in the fortune cookie factory. To see some more inspiring fortune cookies click here.

More in the Fortune Cookie series.
Urban Simplicity.

Sometimes two seats are better than one...and they're for sale.

Yup. It's true. My beloved tandem is for sale. We sort of outgrew it. And by "we" I mean my son and I. This is the bike I used to transport him when he was a kid, now he is a young man. It's a really good and solid bike, it rides great, and is really fun to ride. If you happen to be in the WNY and are interested feel free to contact me. If you want to see some of the specifics of the bike and it's price, click here for its craigslist posting.

Urban Simplicity.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five or Six Quotes from John Muir (and a couple photos, too)..

The above photo (which was found here) is an image of John Muir in 1902; the photographer is unknown. The below two images are of Muir Woods in Northern California and were taken by me with a little hand-held point-and-shoot camera on a trip I took with my son in the summer of 2010.

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt"

“Most people are on the world, not in it. ”

“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home."

“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”

“The sun shines not on us but in us.”

“God has cared for these trees,saved them from drought,disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”

More Five Quotes.
Urban Simplicity.

Things that can be carried on a bike (#607)...

A camera, a book bag, a tripod, and a tandem bicycle.

Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Moon stalking, a correlating poem, and a few other things...

As you likely know--if you happened to be outside last night or the night prior--there was another super-moon, this time it was the harvest moon. It's glow was intense to say the least. The night was scheduled to have clear skies so at sunset I hopped on my bike with my gear and rode to to the pier along the lake and the river. As the moon rose over the skyline it was really breathtaking. And it was interesting to watch the sun set over Canada while the moon rose over the U.S. in the other direction. Anyhow, I took dozens of photos, these are a few of my favorites. Click any for a slightly larger view. A poem by Mary Oliver is at the bottom of the page.

Harvest Moon, by Mary Oliver
No sky could hold
so much light–
and here comes the brimming,
the flooding and streaming
out of the clouds
and into the leaves,
glazing the creeks,
the smallest ditches!
And so many stars!
The sky seems stretched
like an old black cloth;
behind it, all
the celestial fire
we ever dreamed of!
And the moon steps lower,
quietly changing
her luminous masks, brushing
everything as she passes
with her slow hands
and soft lips–
clusters of dark grapes,
apples swinging like lost planets,
melons cool and heavy as bodies–
and the mockingbird wakes
in his hidden castle;
out of the silver tangle
of thorns and leaves
he flutters and tumbles,
spilling long
ribbons of music
over forest and river,
copse and cloud–
all heaven and all earth–
wherever the white moon
fancies her small wild prince–
field after field after field.

Urban Simplicity.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

L'heure bleue et nuit...

Okay. So you may be getting tired of seeing photos of Buffalo's waterfront. Sorry. But I have been so drawn to it this summer. I find it relaxing. Yesterday after a very crazy-busy and super hot-and-humid day of running a round a kitchen and facing a stove, I wanted nothing more than to have a cold beer and feel the breeze off the lake. So, yup, that's just what I did. And if you've visited this site before then you know that my favorite time of day to take photos is at dusk, or what is often called "the blue hour" (l'heure bleue)'s that incredibly beautiful time of day--dusk and dawn--when everything takes on a blue hue. It only lasts about a half hour or so before the day turns into night and it is gone. 

From Wikipedia...During the blue hour, red light passes straight into space while blue light is scattered in the atmosphere and therefore reaches the earth's surface. Because of the quality of the light, this period is treasured by artists.

Indeed, some devote entire websites on taking photos during this time. Anyhow, I'll stop blathering on about it, but it really is a magical time. The above and below photo are of Buffalo Harbor, and the bottom photo--after night had fallen and I was on my way home--is an image of Buffalo Navel Park. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.