Thursday, February 28, 2013

Morning Tea

Sometimes, breakfast with the little girls calls for just a little.....embellishing.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries with Garlic Aioli Dipping Sauce

Secret Recipe Club

I am so excited to share this recipe with all of you today!  Why, you ask?  Well two reasons.  First, because today is Secret Recipe Club reveal day and I was assigned to an AMAZING blog and second, because the AMAZING blog is packed full of healthy, but delicious recipes.
Garlic Aioli Dipping Sauce

The recipe I am in love with is Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries with Garlic Aioli Dipping Sauce and it comes from Laura over at The Healthy Jalapeno.  Her blog is full of recipes that are made with fresh ingredients that are good for your body.  She says she has, "no special talents," but don't believe that because her food is awesome!  Every recipe she makes for her new hubby and herself looks tasty, with a capital T!  
I first contemplated one of her many smoothie recipes , because I am always in a rush in the mornings and need a filling, healthy breakfast.  Then I spent some time on her snacks page drooling over a ton of options for my wine book club, (doesn't this Carmelized Onion Tart with Gorgonzola and Brie look heavenly ) But, I finally listened to a craving I had been having and felt inspired to make  Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries with Garlic Aioli  because I wanted some french fries to pair with my oven baked chicken fingers

These Sweet Potato Fries were a hit with my entire family!  They were sweet and a little bit spicy.  I loved the garlic dipping sauce so much that I decided to use it as a dip for bread later in the evening.   For the sauce, I added fresh garlic instead of granulated garlic, and used reduced fat mayonnaise and sour cream to reduce the calories and fat.  I especially like that these fries are easy to make, and can take the place of a regular fry anytime.  I have found my go to healthy option with this recipe! ENJOY!!

Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries 
with Garlic Aioli Dipping Sauce
Recipe Source: The Healthy Jalapeno

**Please note, I tripled the recipe so that I had enough fries for my family.  I am posting the recipe as I prepared it.  You may need to adjust your quantities depending on the serving size you need.**

Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries
3 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into french fries
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper 
3/4 paprika
additional salt if desired for sprinkling over the top after the fries are out of the oven

Garlic Aioli 
**Again, cut this down or increase depending on the amount you are serving**
3 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream 
3 large garlic cloves, very finely minced (you may use granulated garlic as well)
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 400 F.  While it is heating up, line your baking sheet with parchment paper.  

In a mixing bowl, combine the oil, egg whites, salt, chipotle powder, pepper, and paprika.

Add the sweet potatoes and toss to coat evenly with the coating.  

Lay the potatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for about 20 minutes on one side and another 20 minutes on the second side or until tender and brown on the edges.  Sprinkle with salt and serve with garlic aioli or your favorite dipping sauce.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Stinco di Agnello con Carciofi (Lamb Shanks with Artichokes)

I don't think I have ever seen such small Lamb shanks in any market in Memphis, TN.  As you all know, I have to drive at least 85 miles sometimes in a quest for something different.  I don't think a Mississippian would ever have had a Lamb shank on their dinner table or know how to cook one.  As an Italian girl, growing up in New York, it was a staple in our kitchen, especially around the Spring time.    I came across some large Globe artichokes  locally and thought, what an interesting combination of flavors.  Why
not give it a try. 
This recipe served 2.
The general rule is an artichoke and shank per person.
Ingredients:  2 large, globe artichokes, cleaned and quartered, in a bowl of lemon water and set aside
2 lamb shanks  (about 2 pounds or so)
1/2 large sweet Italian red onion sliced thin
(you can substitute 1/4 Spanish onion sliced thin)
2 cloves garlic diced (about teaspoon and 1/)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 cup of white wine
approx. 8 cups of Artichoke water (The water you will use to boil your artichokes)
1/3 cup minced parsley
optional fresh mint for garnish
Clean your artichokes by peeling away the hard outer parts until you see an uniformed light green, yellowish color.  Remove the spiny end and split in half.  Clean at the choke and split.
  Place quickly in lemon water until the rest of your artichokes are cleaned.  Meantime, add about 4 quarts of water to a pot with a teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic and bring to a boil.  Add your cleaned, cut artichokes and bring to a boil.  Boil for approximately 15 minutes and drain, reserving your water. 
In an 8quart covered casserole dish with an oven proof lid, heat your olive oil.  Add your lamb shanks, a teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of pepper and brown on all sides.
Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add your cut up onion, garlic and saute until fragrant. Add your artichokes and split them again if you need to.  When it begins to sizzle, add some of your artichoke water again and let reduce.  Add your lamb shanks back to
 the pan. 
Preheat your oven to 325 F.
Give it a gentle mix.  Add the rest of your salt, wine and let reduce for about 5 minutes.
 Give it another gentle mix and add your liquid 3/4 up the pot. 
Bring to a simmer and add your lid. 
Place your pot into the oven for approximately 1 hour and a half.  Check it at the hour mark.  If you need more liquid, add more artichoke water. You can even add some water.  Gently give your lamb shanks a turn.  It is normal to see them begin to fall apart.  You will also notice the liquid slowly evaporating.  This is normal.
Gently remove your hot pot from the oven and remove the lid.
Remove your meat and place into your serving dish.   Turn your heat on under your pot again and reduce your liquid. 
Carefully remove your sauce and artichokes and pour over your meat.  Serve with plenty of crusty bread and a good glass of red wine like Chianti or Shiraz.  Buon Appetito. 
Special note:  When shopping for Lamb shanks try to find the shanks from Australia.  The American lamb can be quite large and very fatty at times.  American lamb is quite good for Leg of lamb or chops.   Australian lamb is much smaller and very tasty.  If you find the smell gamy, try marinating the shanks ahead for a few hours in some white wine.   Enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Get Lost -

in a good book.

There's been a lot of this going on over mid-winter break.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sugar Cookies

I have been searching for years to find a sugar cookie that I love.  The problem is that everyone has their own preferences when it comes to cookies: crispy, soft, chewy, gooey, etc., which makes it hard to find the "perfect" recipe.  Your perfect is probably not the same as my perfect.

When it comes to most cookies, I like them soft, but not so soft that they are underdone in the middle.  I have been using a recipe for years that had amazing flavor and stayed soft through the baking process; however, the high volume of eggs made the cookies very puffy and they didn't keep their shape very well.  I was ok with puffy cookies because they were just for me and my family, but once in a while I wanted a cookie that would hold the cutter shape better. This cookie does that!

Thanks to the lovely world of Pinterest, I have finally found a cookie that meets my requirements.  This recipe comes from the blog Make Bake Celebrate and it is soft and still looks like the cookie cutter.  I loved them plain, but they also frost beautifully.  This recipe is quick to make.  It doesn't require long chilling times, it rolls beautifully and the final product is one that everyone in my family loves.

I did have to make a few minor changes.  First I added salt.  The original recipe doesn't call for any salt, but I am a firm believer that every recipe should have some.  I also added a little lemon zest for some additional flavor, but this is optional and depends on the flavors you enjoy most in your cookies.  ENJOY!

Rolled Sugar Cookies
Recipe Source: Modified slightly from Make Bake Celebrate

**Please note that baking times will vary depending on the thickness and size of your cookies.  I would highly recommend keeping a close eye on your first batch in order to determine the baking time that you need.**

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon zest

About 30 minutes before making the cookies set your butter and egg on the counter to come to room temperature.  You don't want super soft butter, for a good information on softened butter check this link out.

In a bowl combine the lour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

Using your mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until well combined.  Add the egg and mix well.  Mix in the vanilla and lemon zest.

Slowly add the flour one cup at a time.  When the dough is well mixed, turn it out and knead until your it is nice and smooth.  Wrap and refrigerate.  At this point you don't need to chill for hours.  You are only seeking for the dough to be firm.  I left mine in the refrigerator about 20 minutes is all.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F

When your dough is chilled, place it between two sheets of parchment paper to roll out.  (The parchment paper under the dough can be transferred straight to your cookie sheet to prevent sticking if you like.  I bake on stoneware and don't need the parchment.)  Roll out your dough to the thickness you desire.  I rolled to about 3/8 inch thickness, but you can go thicker or thinner if you want.

 Cut out using the shape you want, transfer to a baking sheet, and bake until the cookies are set, and the tops look done.  You can check for the moist, shiny appearance to be gone too.  Mine baked for 9 minutes and were perfect for me.

Frost if desired, or enjoy immediately!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cartoons in Mom's Bed

A day off from school brings a welcome break in routine-I get to stay nestled in my layers of blankets and pillows until, one-by-one, incoming children crowd me out of bed.

First, my youngest child comes in wanting to snuggle.  She leans close to my face and declares, "I wake up, Mommy!"  Her breath is warm and smells.......less than sweet.  But she wakes up so happy to be alive and ready to be loved that I can only smile and breath in all of her.

Somewhere between the first "I'm hungry" and the final resolution to get up and change that diaper, she finds my phone.  Cartoons.

Someone else comes in....interested in cartoons.

And because cartoons trump breakfast, we all enjoy a little more time to snuggle together.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Here Comes the Boom

My kids spent the last couple of months EXHAUSTING this trailer for Here Comes the Boom.

So when it was recently released on DVD, they were all about watching it.  
Truthfully, I was a little on the fence about having them watch MMA fighting.
We rented it anyway.  

Okay, I admit it tied in nicely with our recent discussion on following through with goals.

.......And it inspired some great family arm wrestling.

What was that?  Reservations about having them watch MMA fighting?

Well, we had to do SOMETHING with all that vicarious aggression.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pasta with Sausages and Roasted red Peppers (Pasta con Salsicce e Peperoni Rossi Arrostiti

When our dear friends craved something Italian, I just had to comply.  What better way to celebrate Valentine's day with some food from the country that started it all. 
Truth be told, they had been through so much lately as a family.  We were very happy to hear our friend was recovering so well from his surgery.  Time for a celebration!~ I began cooking early in the day.  Nothing like some comforting Chicken cutlet Parmigiana.  But I decided to make some pasta too. Had some sausages on hand along with my jarred Roasted red peppers.  So why not?   I don't know a Southerner who doesn't like Sausage.  It's not just for breakfast.  In fact, make sandwiches for lunch the next day.  The possibilities are endless in the Italian Kitchen.   Buon Appetito!
Serves 8-10
Ingredients: 2 packages of Sausages.  I used Italian sweet sausage. Approx. 2 pounds (Can be made with less.  Just make appropriate adjustments as the method is the same).
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
One Italian sweet onion cut up.  You can use 1/2 a yellow onion or Spanish onion if you like. (Look for something sweeter than the traditional yellow onion).  Sliced, about one cup
4 large roasted red peppers seeded.  (There are several good jarred varieties on the market.  Roast them ahead if you like, peel and cut into large strips).
2 cloves garlic diced
one small clove of elephant garlic diced (optional)
One cup of dry, white wine
Method: Place your olive oil in a large skillet and brown your sausage
Remove them from the pan and set aside.
Drain all fat from the pan in a bowl.  Spoon back into the skillet about 4-5 tablespoons.  Reserve the oil for now. (you might need it if you find your pan to dry later).
Add your onion and garlic and saute until wilted and fragrant.  This will take about 5 minutes or so on medium.
Add your roasted red peppers and mix.  Reduce for a few minutes and add your sausages back to the pan.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Turn your sausages in your pan gently.
Adjust your heat.  Add one cup of white wine and continue reducing.   At this point place your sausages into your oven on bake for 30-35 minutes.  Check them occasionally and give them a mix in the pan. 
After cooking the sausage in the oven, remove them from the pan.  I cooked some pasta with this wonderful sauce, that requires no tomato at all and is filled with gorgeous color and terrific flavor.
Since I was making Chicken Parmigiana for our friends too, I decided to take along some extra tomato sauce.  I think I made enough food for them for a few days at best.
Please excuse the metal tray.  It was a great method of transport however.  I did dress it up the best I can.
Special delivery!  Happy Valentine's Day to our dear friends, The William's.  We are so happy to know he is recovering so well from Surgery and he didn't lose his appetite.  Packed up and ready to go! ~Enjoy!!!   Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blue Cottage Agency Article

Quote of the Day:  I can do brave things. Krista's favorite saying which is highlighted in my most recent article for Her Voice magazine.

Krista and her twin daughters, attending "The Cat in the Hat" with me at

What a pleasure to it was to write an article about my favorite publicist and friend Krista Rolfzen Soukup. Her friendship and professional connection are two of the best things about moving to the Brainerd lakes area, almost ten years ago. Another 10 year celebration is for the magazine Her Voice. Happy 10th Anniversary Her Voice, and editor Meg Douglas! I'm so glad that you did something brave 10 years ago and started this fine magazine. I found my voice through Her Voice, and the confidence and connections continue to grow.

Reach out to other artists in your community. I hope all of you readers find your voice in all your art forms and relationships.

Go. Create. Inspire!

To read the article, go to Her Voice at the Brainerd Dispatch website. My article on Krista and the Blue Cottage Agency starts on page 12.

Journaling Prompt:  What's your big dream?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Macaroni con Formaggi (Taleggio), asparagi e funghi (Macaroni and Taleggio with Asparagus and Mushrooms

My Mom tells me to this day that a little can go a very long way.  With unexpected company dropping by to watch me cook, not the Superbowl, I knew I better think fast.   I like to keep Ramekins in all shapes and sizes.  With many other foods being served, I wanted to be sure and have something warm and hearty to satisfy everyone.   One pound of Pasta can feed 10 people and here is how.
What you will need:
10/ 5ounce ramekins (you want to have them deep enough for volume without boiling over)
4 oz of Taleggio cut up.  Any, soft, cheeese you like will do. 
One pound of fresh asparagus (trimmed (wood ends removed), blanched, water reserved,
 cut the tops and reserve/dice the rest into small pieces.
One pound of mixed mushrooms.  I used 8 ounces each of oyster and portabella/ sliced thin.  Cooked until reduced in 2 tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
2 cups of Bechamel (prepared in the Method of Marcella Hazan's book, "Essentials of Italian Cooking."
Optional 4 ounce dice of Prosciutto
Keep plenty of salt and pepper on hand
One cup of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (more or less)
Butter for lining your ramekins
Pinch of Nutmeg (Bechamel)
Pasta:  Large Fusilli/ One pound (look for any, large size, pasta shape that will grab the richness of the sauce).
9 quarts of water in a pasta pot  (This is a large pasta size.  The larger that you use, the more water you will need to cook your pasta.
Place your water on the stove to boil.  Add 3 tablespoons of salt to your water.  Place your lid on your pan and bring to a rolling boil.
In the meantime, prepare your Asparagus.  Blanch, cut and place in a bowl.   Be sure and reserve your water.
Next, cook your mushrooms.   Heat your oil in a skillet.  Take a large garlic clove and smash it.  When the oil is heated some, place your smashed garlic in your pan.  You just want flavor.  Do not cut your garlic into pieces as you will be discarding it.  Cook your mushrooms on medium.  Add a teaspoon of salt, pepper and keep cooking until all the liquid is reduced in your pan.  Your mushrooms will shrink.  This will take about 10 minutes or so.  Do not rush the cooking, as this will affect the overall outcome of your dish. 
Set aside to cool.
In another skillet, prepare your bechamel.   If you can not google or actually have Marcella Hazan's wonderful book, I strongly suggest you purchase one.  It's all you will ever need in the kitchen.  It is available for purchase to the right of this blog too.
  Heat your whole milk slowly.  Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet on medium heat.   Add 3 tablespoons of flour, one at a time and mix.  You want to cook your flour, just like you were making a roux.  (If your heat is to high, you will burn your flour.  If this happens, just start over).  Keep it low and slow.   Begin to add your milk, a little at a time.  Turn off your heat.   You will notice your milk will begin to thicken and become creamy.  Continue until all your milk is combined.   Add a pinch of Nutmeg, a Teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of white pepper.  Set aside.  If the mixture is to thick, add a little more milk.   If to thin, turn your heat back on low and keep mixing.  Miracles happen and it takes practice.   I must admit, I have made plenty of mistakes.  Don't be in a rush.   Set it aside. 
Cook your pasta until firm, right before al dente.
Drain well and set aside.  Combine all the rest of your ingredients (except your Asparagus tips),  into a bowl and mix.  Add your pasta and mix again. 
Divide your pasta mixture into your bowls.  Add about a tablespoon of Asparagus water to each Ramekin.  (If you think your ramekins are two dry, add another tablespoon).
 Top with two asparagus tips each crosswise, then add some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
(At this point your can either cover them and refrigerate for the next day)
If your cooking:
Place in a Preheated, 375F degree oven for 15 minutes/covered.  Remove the foil and cook for 5 minutes more.  You want just a slight crust on top.  Serve hot/warm
It's easy, fun to make and will always please a crowd.  Remember, a little goes a long way.  (Italian Macaroni and Cheese, I am not telling).
Buon Appetito Everyone!  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Buzzer, a Review

Quote of the Day:  People use humor to deflect their true emotions. A line used several times in the play Buzzer written by Tracey Scott Wilson, Produced by Pillsbury House Theatre and performed at the Dowling Studio at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN.

Pillsbury House Theatre production of Buzzer
Featuring: Sara A. Richardson as Suzy, Namir Smallwood as Jackson, Hugh Kennedy as Don
Production: Marion McClinton - Director; Tracey Scott Wilson - Playwright; Noel Raymond - Producer; Faye M. Price - Producer; Elizabeth R MacNally - Stage Manager; Mike Wangen - Lighting Designer; Dean Holzman - Set Designer/Builder; Kellie Larson - Prop Designer; Clare Brauch - Costume Designer; C. Andrew Mayer- Original Sound Designer; e.g. bailey, Assistant Director; Katherine Horowitz, Sound Designer; Heidi Batz Rogers, Fight Choreographer
Photo © Michal Daniel, 2013

Buzzer is a contemporary play set in urban America. It has mature themes and adult language and pulls you in from the opening sentence. The characters feel like people you already know and as you're watching, you feel like you are inside the apartment ready to join in on the conversation. I give the director, Marion McClinton, credit for how well the characters interact with each other and the audience. The way they turn towards us, look out as if we are another character, or open up so we can really feel what they are feeling is what pulls you into their story. The actors do an amazing job of creating the tension around their situation.

Photo by Michal Daniel
Rarely do you see a show where you are pulled in so completely that you lose yourself in the performance. You forget that you're at a play and you are mentally interacting with the people on stage. My sister said that when Hugh Kennedy walked on stage as Don, she felt like she knew him. He never seemed like he was acting, but that he was Don, living the life of a recovering alcoholic, trying to find his way, working the program, and fighting so many obstacles.
This is a story about relationships, trust, and fear. It makes you ponder the question: Are our fears founded on experience and instint? When is the truth too painful to be spoken out loud?
I could go on to analyze this incredible performance and story, but I'm afraid I might give too much away. This is a story that needs to be experienced. You have until March 3, 2013, to see this show at The Dowling Studio at The Guthrie Theater. It is a performance that will stick with you and get you thinking about how you act and interact with each other, what pulls us in and and out of relationships, and how we live.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt:  What are your fears in your relationships?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Three-Seed Sourdough Sandwich Bread . . .

So, I have this sourdough starter that began its productive life almost three years ago, when I took what turned out to be, for me, an incredibly valuable artisan breads class. The starter lives, most of the time, in our basement fridge and occasionally emerges to get a little air and enjoy a snack, as all starters like do to from time to time. It's really pungent whenever I open up its container, really sour and sharp. I've made some of the best bread of my life with that stuff, and I hope it never gives up the ghost. Why I've never done a blog post highlighting the loaves of bread I've produced with it, I can't adequately explain. I'm talking about the kind of sourdough bread that has to proof for a long, long, long time, and which is then baked on a stone in a very hot oven enhanced with steam. This sort of bread has the most glorious, indescribable crust. I guess I just don't know how to explain how to reliably reproduce that kind of bread, probably because I'm not sure I even know myself. It's a bit unpredictable, temperamental. It has a mind of its own.

Anyway, suffice it to say that some sourdough starters can help you produce bread that is excruciatingly good. They assert themselves in finished loaves in a provocative way. They love attention. They positively bask in the glow.

But, then again, there are also some perfectly respectable sourdough starters out there that are kind of shy. In a finished loaf, their flavor tends to hang back. They're mild-mannered wallflowers, yet they're reliable and tasty, and--really--what would the world of bread be without them? That's the kind of starter that appears in today's recipe. It won't knock you off your feet with it's sourness. It'll just nudge you gently. I bought the beginnings of this shy starter just before Christmas from King Arthur Flour (KAF), and have used it three or four times thus far. Its pedigree is distinguished, to say the least. According to KAF, the ancestor of the starter I purchased came into existence well over two hundred years ago. Amazing, isn't it? I couldn't resist ordering it when I read that.

History has shown that a well-cared-for starter can thrive for ages. Literally. And, much as I will always love that very-sour starter in my basement fridge (whose ancestors hailed from a bona fide San Francisco sourdough), I really wanted to try one that was old as Methuselah, just to see what it was like. So when this shy guy arrived several weeks ago, I was excited. I brought it in the house the moment the package hit my porch. It was practically weightless, packed into a small plastic jar. I opened it, sniffed it, and quickly fed it according to the accompanying directions. (KAF actually urges you to name your sourdough, as if it's a baby they've given up for adoption.) I peered at it anxiously over the next couple of days, reassured by increasingly obvious signs of life. It woke up beautifully, bubbling right on cue. Now, it's pretty much a member of the family.

About this recipe . . .

Gently adapted from this very easy formula on the KAF website, I altered the recipe by doubling it; using a simple mixture of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, and flax meal in place of their "Harvest Grains Blend" (something I have never tried, but that can be found here); and by rewording the formula to reflect exactly how I assembled it. (You can use fed or unfed starter; I used fed.) I did most of the kneading by hand, and didn't have a dough that was nearly as sticky as the original recipe warns. This is a well-textured loaf that will stay fresh and soft longer than many leaner breads. I used olive oil in it, and that flavor clearly comes through; if you aren't crazy about olive oil, be sure and use a vegetable oil instead. The sourness from the KAF starter was indeed very mild. I think maybe as my new starter matures, it'll take on more character, especially when used in long-proofing bread. It should be interesting to see how it evolves over the next few years/decades/centuries. Stay tuned!

Full Disclosure: Hey, in case you're wondering, I'm just naturally a big fan of King Arthur Flour products and recipes. I was not compensated in any way to wax rhapsodic about their stuff, nor have I ever gotten anything free from them (like, ever). I confess that I just love KAF. Heck, I wish the company was headquartered in Michigan so I could camp on their doorstep, dough-whisk in hand, an unrepentant and flour-dusted bread-groupie. 

Three-Seed Sourdough Sandwich Bread

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Makes two standard-size loaves.

1 and 1/2 cup liquid sourdough starter, fed or unfed (I used fed; this recipe uses the starter more as a flavoring than as a leavener [it also includes commercial yeast for leavening], so it's okay if you use unfed. This type of liquid starter is the consistency of thick, stretchy, sticky pancake batter; it is not a solid starter. Here's a link from King Arthur Flour that will show you how to make a starter from scratch, in case you have never tried it; note that making one from scratch takes at least several days. It's worth the trouble. Once you've got your own starter up and running, the sky's the limit!)
1 and 1/3 (up to 1 and 1/2 cups) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil (I used olive oil, which definitely adds a distinct flavor.)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 and 1/2 teaspoons salt (I used coarse kosher salt.)
3 cups (or slightly less) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup plain potato flakes or 1/2 cup potato flour (I used unflavored potato flakes, the dehydrated stuff you can buy to make mashed potatoes.)
1 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat.)
2/3 cup (total) combined mixture of sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and flax meal
4 teaspoons of instant yeast

In the large bowl of your mixer (or, if you prefer, do this by hand), combine all of the dry ingredients and gently mix them together using the paddle attachment on the lowest speed. Add in the sourdough starter, water, and oil. Mix for a couple of minutes until a nice sticky dough has started to form. At this point, if you want to stick with the mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on low speed for about four more minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic; if you want to knead the dough by hand, dust a clean work surface with a small handful of all-purpose flour, and knead the dough until it's smooth and elastic (this took me about seven minutes by hand).

Put the dough into a bowl that's been greased, oiled, or sprayed with vegetable spray (I did the latter). Cover the bowl with a piece of greased, oiled, etc. plastic wrap, and then cover that with a lightweight dish towel. Let the dough rise in a draft-free spot for up to about two hours, until it's doubled or almost doubled (mine was doubled at 90 minutes; that's it below, looking nice and puffy).

Lightly grease two standard-size loaf pans (I always use a pastry brush to coat bread pans with vegetable shortening). When the dough has risen sufficiently, dump it out onto a barely flour-dusted work surface (the less flour added at this point the better) and gently deflate the dough. With a bench knife or sharp chef's knife cut it into two equal pieces. Round each piece with your hands, pulling slightly downward on the tops to create surface tension. Let them rest, covered with the greased plastic wrap, for about 12 minutes.

Uncover the pieces and form them into loaves, being careful to tightly pinch closed all seams; place the pieces, seam-side down, into their pans.

Lightly cover the pans with the greased plastic wrap, and cover that with the dishtowel. Place the pans in a draft-free spot that is a little warmer than room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Let the loaves proof (have their final rise) until the dough rises at least 1" over the top of the pan. Carefully uncover the risen loaves. Mist them with water (use a squirt bottle; if you don't have one, wet your hands  and very gently pat the tops of the loaves) right before you put them in the oven. Place them in the preheated oven on the middle rack, and quickly squirt your mister into the oven to create a quick burst of steam (be careful not to aim for the lightbulb).

Bake for about 20 minutes and then check to see if the bread is browning too quickly; if so, lightly tent the loaves with foil. They should be done in about 30-35 minutes (total time), when the crust is dark golden, and the internal temperature is at least 190 degrees inside. You can check by poking an instant-read thermometer into the bottom of each loaf. (I very often do this, just to be on the safe side. You'll know it's under-baked bread if the inside is kind of gummy/heavy even  after it's cooled.) Take the finished loaves out of their pans and set them on a rack. Melt one or two tablespoons of unsalted butter and use a pastry brush to lightly coat the tops of the loaves while they're still warm. Let them cool almost completely before you slice them.

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