FlatbreadI recently went to Subway and for the first time got a sammich (Spicy Italian) with their flatbread. Loved the bread, and naturally wondered if I could do it at home. There are a number of recipes online, all quite similar, yet none of them had any fat in the bread. So I put together my own version and we grilled it up last night.


1 C warm water
2.5 tsp yeast
1/4 c sugar
1 egg
3 T milk
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp thyme leaves chopped
4 C flour
2-3 Tbsp olive oil

  • Put the dry ingredients (flour, yeast, sugar, salt, thyme) into mixing bowl.
  • Stir wet ingredients together till egg is broken up.
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix till a smooth ball forms
  • Put dough ball into oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise for 30 minutes
  • Light the coals in the chimney and prep the grill
  • Punch down and divide into 4-8 balls, depending on how large you want the flats to be
  • Rest balls 5 minutes then roll out to 1/4″ thickness or a wee bit less
  • Grill the flatbreads, turning after the bubbles form on the top (2-3 minutes each side)
  • I found it helpful to move the flatbreads to the cooler side of the grill for a few minutes to be certain they were baked through.

I thought this was excellent with grill roasted turkey and cheese. The kids pulled the turkey and cheese off and made a meal of just the bread!


ugly pie

We love Lisa Wheeler’s children’s books, and Ugly Pie has been one of our long time favorites.

Ol’ Bear has a hankerin’ for pie. Not just any pie…ugly pie. He wanders around visiting friends, each of whom has a taste-bud tempting pie, but he’s just itchin’, truly whishin’ for some ugly pie. Each of his neighbors does give him something ugly from their kitchen: “Ugly apples, raisins, too, sweet molasses, nuts–WAHOO!” which he takes home and commences to mix together to make his own ugly pie.

Our version of Ugly Pie

Well, the book has a recipe for ugly pie at the end, and-as you might expect-the kids have been pestering me for years to make it. So here is the finished ugly product!

As you can tell the ugliest thing is my pie crust. There are really only two kitchen projects that really intimidate me: pizza crust and pie crust. Just can’t seem to make either of them well.

One of the coolest things about this pie, though, is that it is the first pie I have had the chance to make using one of my mom’s pie dish. I had a chance to snag it this summer on a trip back to Toledo. It has a special place in my heart. (Now if I can just figure out how to weasel her doughnut cutter from my brother.)

If this has you itchin’ for some Ugly Pie, today is your lucky day! Here’s Ol’ Bear’s recipe, handed down from bear to bear for generations.

Ugly Crust:
2 & 1/2 cups flour
1 cup shortening (we used butter)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 to 8 tablespoons icy cold water

Ugly Filling
6 cups peeled, sliced Granny Smith apples (we used apples given to us by a family from their apple tree)
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a large bowl, toss apple slices with lemon juice. Then mix in molasses until apples are completely coated with ugly brown goo. Set aside.
5 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the dry ingredients listed above. Add to the ugly apple mixture until everything is nice ‘n’ moist.
3/4 cup red raisins or cran-raisins
1/4 walnuts chopped fine (we left out the nuts)

Toss raisins and walnuts into apple mixture. Make sure all ingredients are well coated. Place into pie crust. Your pie should look fairly ugly by now.
Top with second pie crust and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture. Cover pie with an aluminum-foil tent to prevent over browning. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 20 minutes.
When your pie is done, you will have the most delicious, most beautiful UGLY PIE you ever did see!

And here are the variations I employed:

  • I used America’s Test Kitchen butter crust, since I don’t have a ready supply of lard, and shortening makes a pretty tasteless crust. (This crust was the best attempt I have ever made, at least it was the easiest to roll out and it didn’t tear too much. We’ll see how it tastes. I have been really, really tempted to try ATK’s trick of using vodka r/th ice water in crust. The alcohol cooks out but it allows you to use more liquid than just water and the crust is easier to roll out. However, due mostly to my upbringing in a fundamental church, I am a teetotaler. While I cook with wine, I don’t drink any alcohol. I can explain to family that visits the cooking wine and beer for beer-battered fish, onion rings, etc. It might be a bit harder to ‘splain the vodka in the pantry! Ah the angst of ‘growing up fundamentalist; I’m scarred, scarred I tell ya!)
  • I also used a combination of Yellow Delicious and Granny Smith apples and baked them to just tender to keep their moisture down so the pie doesn’t get soupy. After baking them with some sugar and cinnamon, I mixed them into the other ugly stuff and cooked it a bit longer to let the four thicken some of the molasses and brown sugar goo.
  • And finally, I used a crumble topping that ATK sent out in one of their email blasts. Halving this recipe worked great for the 9″ pie.
  • Topping
    • 3/4cup (3 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 3/4cup pecans, chopped fine
    • 3/4cup old-fashioned rolled oats (see note)
    • 1/2cup (3 1/2 ounces) packed light brown sugar
    • 1/4cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
    • 1/2teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2teaspoon table salt
    • 8 Tblsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

btw, almost all of Lisa Wheeler’s books are rollicking good fun to read. I want our kids to love language, and her books contribute to that with great rhymes, stories, and rhythmic lines.

separated at birth…

…or a side job?

Dr. “Greg Mazak”

Has anyone seen ‘them’ together in the same place? Change the part in the hair, and off to the second career!

Senator “Paul Ryan”


Plays well with fruits and nuts, ice cream and honey, or just by itself. My kids? Sometimes. Crunchy, tasty, crisp, nutritious. Who doesn’t like granola?

As long as my teeth survive, you may mutter. Good point. Those Nature Valley bars can do enough damage to finance an orthodontist’s 2nd home. And if it takes that much to masticate, what is it doing to your innards, I ask you? But now (doncha just love that biblical phrase that turns everything around?) there is hope for teeth and tummy.

Cooks Illustrated included a fantastic base recipe for granola in the March/April issue. Adam Reid, ATK’s gadget guru, threw it together when he wasn’t busy figuring out which blender would grind up a tree stump the fastest. He listed several variations and gave several helpful guidelines.

Taking it all into account, here is the base recipe, as well as ditches to avoid and directions to explore.

Granola Base Recipe

  • 1/3 Cup   maple syrup*
  • 1/3 Cup   light brown sugar
  • 4 tsp         vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp     salt
  • 1/2 Cup   vegetable oil
  • 5 Cups      rolled oats
  • 2 Cups      chopped nuts
  • 2 Cups      dried fruit (optional)


  1. Oven rack in middle. Oven temp – 325. Line a sheet pan or a couple 9×12 casserole dishes with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk maple syrup*, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl. Stir in oats and nuts till thoroughly combined.
  3. Sprinkle granola into dishes or pack it in with the back of a spatula to make bars.
  4. Bake 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool at least an hour. If you are making bars, break it into irregular pieces (Reid describes it as ‘granola bark’ which is pretty apt.) Stir in the dried fruit.

Half sheet pan of granola going into the oven.

40 minutes later, look at me now! Tanned and ready to go

Ditches and directions

$35.77 for 64 oz! $.56/oz!!!

* I have no doubts that Reid, being in Vermont and working for ATK, intends the maple syrup to be the real mccoy from the trees. I don’t have that budget, so I used “Maple flavored Pancake Syrup.” (You may now arise from your fainting spell if you are in New England and/or have an unlimited budget for granola. You may now call me blessed if you have a normal-sized budget and 3 kids who treat this stuff as candy; I have tried the recipe with the low cost alternative and it works just fine.)

The biggest pain of the whole recipe is chopping the nuts. Reid says that the food pro does a terrible job of chopping nuts, and he would probably say the same thing about a slap-chopper. But I think I am going to try that next, cuz keeping little fingers out from under the knife blade is sometimes a challenge. Plus their li’l eyeballs are right at the level of nut-shrapnel.

Along that line: I had about 1.5 cups of pecan flour dust in the freezer after making pecan crusted pork pinwheels. (The crust needed small bits of pecan, but the dust becomes problematic. And I hate throwing away food. So there was all this pecan dust/flour.) Anyway, I tossed that in with the oats and nuts and it was fine. Probably bumped up the nut flavor.

Reid says that any attempt to include dried fruit into the bars/granola while baking will inevitably dry it out. I like granola just fine without dried fruit, so I didn’t bother. Plus how do you mix dried fruit bits into the packed and baked bars?

This recipe can probably head as many different directions as you can think of with nuts and fruits and combinations. Use your imagination. Use what you have available. Throw in some M&Ms. Toss it in a bag for school snack.

Looks so good, I’ll show it twice.

Try it some morning in a bowl with fruit and drizzled with honey. Your whole day will be better.

Assessment:  A

The first time, I used 2 casserole pans, making one loose and crumbled, and the other packed into bars. The second batch I packed into a half sheet pan. It is easy to crumble up after the fact.

This granola is great crumbled. Just stir it once or twice while baking. Dynamite for cereal. The bars were just as good. They hold their shape well, but are not jaw-breakingly dense like the-bars-that-shall-now-go-unnamed.

This an easy snack to make. Great for kids to help with. It stores really well. But it won’t last long, either.

The first chapter of Nothing to Envy begins with this mind-boggling picture.

Days after finishing this book, I am still captivated by this image, as well as the descriptions of daily life that Barbara Demick gleaned from North Koreans who have escaped to the South. Stories of the brain-washing of a nation by Kim Il-sung and then his son Kim Jong-il. It is not over-the-top to say that they presented themselves as Father and Son figures…and somehow got a nation to buy into it. Stories of malnutrition to the point that grammar school children have the stature of a 3 year old. Stories from the late-1990’s famine that “the good die first” because they would not steal or get involved in the ‘evil, capitalistic black market.’ Stories of cornmeal being ‘extended’ by grinding the husks and cob along with the kernels, sometimes sawdust thrown in as well.

Barbara Demick weaves her book around the lives of 6 North Korean citizens who escaped and live in South Korea. Somehow she makes their dreary lives in the North riveting, I suppose because so much of it is so alien and inhumane. NtE does not deal much with the politics of North v. South, and touches on communism v. capitalism mostly from the vantage of slogans fed to the North Koreans. The details of daily life carry the narrative.

The book builds to the climax of the famine in the late 1990’s. Oddly enough when the famine hit and foreign aid arrived, capitalism gained a toe-hold. The NK army confiscated the foreign aid and sold it. A black market sprung up overnight. Though illegal, citizens didn’t care; what are you going to do? Kill me? I’m dying already.

For me, this paragraph about the black market is the snapshot-memory of the book:

Every time she went to the market,  Mrs. Song saw something that astonished her. Peaches. Grapes. Bananas. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a banana–may twenty years ago, when Chang-bo brought some home as a treat for the children. One day she saw oranges, real oranges! Mrs. Song had never tasted an orange–she only recognized it from pictures. Another day, she saw a mottled yellow-brown fruit with green spikes growing from the top.

“What is that thing?” she asked a friend, who told her it was a pineapple.

As the famine progressed, people looked for any means of relief-even escaping to China. Most of those who escaped initially intended only to get food in China and then return, but one taste of freedom led to an appetite that could not be satiated by the husks of dull security. Interestingly, house churches in China play a key role in the underground railroad that funnels escapees to freedom in the south.

Why read this book? The North Korean regime will collapse soon. It cannot sustain its own sinful incompetence. What will we as a free people do to alleviate the needs? How will we train the North Koreans to live as free people? Most importantly, what will the church do? The better we know how they have lived, the better able to help them.

A number of years ago, William Bennett wrote The Book of Virtues in which he used parables, fables, and historical stories to highlight certain important character qualities. We recently ran across videos produced for PBS, 0f all places, that used animation to teach these lessons to children. Our kidlets have been  tremendously enjoying these videos, and I’ll bet yours will too.

We like them on two levels. First, each video pinpoints a specific virtue, ie. responsibility, courage, integrity, and explains both the harm of neglecting it, as well as the benefit from cultivating it. Second, the videos retell many of the classic stories that children ought to know. So far our children have become acquainted or reacquainted with stories such as Alfred the Great, Icarus, William Tell, and the boy who cried wolf.  We do like being able to refer to the stories as we talk with our kids.

NOTE: We fully understand the limitations of these videos and lessons. They only teach moralism; they do not teach Christ. We do not intend these videos to substitute for the gospel, nor do we expect our children to become godly by these means. What they do, they do well. Where they are weak, Christ is strong.

NOTE #2: If you watch the Youtube videos, be careful about the commercials that are embedded. It was rather infuriating for the kids to be watching the episode dealing with “Faith,” only to have a credit card commercial come up which included a half-naked woman jumping out of a helicopter into a lake. Thanks, Visa BlackCard, that was helpful. Not sure how that is supposed to motivate me to use your product, but let’s just say it backfired.

For the football fan, Peter King’s “Monday Morning Quarterback” on SI.com is must-read material each week. About this time each year, he includes memorable snippets of commencement addresses, and yesterday’s clip captured my attention.

This is from Aaron Sorkin, the Hollywood screenwriter and producer and Syracuse grad. He spoke at the Syracuse graduations Sunday. What I liked from his speech:

“I’ve made some bad decisions. I lost a decade of my life to cocaine addiction. You know how I got addicted to cocaine? I tried it. The problem with drugs is that they work, right up until the moment that they decimate your life. Try cocaine, and you’ll become addicted to it. Become addicted to cocaine, and you will either be dead, or you will wish you were dead, but it will only be one or the other.

How perfectly do these words picture the power and work of sin. Go through his comments and strip out “cocaine” and “drugs” and substitute “sin” and “evil.”

“I’ve made some bad decisions. I lost a decade of my life to sin addiction. You know how I got addicted to evil? I tried it. The problem with sin is that it works, right up until the moment that it decimates your life. Try sin, and you’ll become addicted to it. Become addicted to evil, and you will either be dead, or you will wish you were dead, but it will only be one or the other.”

  • “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7 ESV)
  • “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15 ESV)
  • “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. (Romans 7:11 ESV)
Is there any hope? Is it in sheer will power? 7 steps? some other addiction program? Our only hope is in the person and work of Christ.
  • “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  (Romans 7:24-25 ESV)
  • “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:1-3 ESV)