Categories
Personal

Pandemic Playlist

If I’d asked you in 2019 what this collection of things had in common, would you have been able to guess?

Anything to add to the roster of in-demand items from the last few months? Any predictions about what’s next?

  • Toilet paper

  • Jarred pasta sauce

  • Flour

  • Baker’s yeast

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Latex gloves

  • Computer monitor

  • Jigsaw puzzles

  • Face-mask pattern

  • Elastic

  • Sewing-machine needles

  • Sourdough starter

  • Weights

  • Bike

  • Seedlings

Photo by Jeffrey Zzum – Pexels

Categories
Personal

Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids

Along with the home baking phenomenon I’ve noticed during the pandemic, I’ve observed another trend among those of us privileged to be staying home. There’s been an explosion of nostalgia, whether it’s digging up and scanning old photos, or reconnecting with older memories in other ways.

Thinking about this gave me the idea to share a memory of my own.

In 2019, I took a big break from public speaking at conferences. I’d decided that outside of my job itself, the entire year of my sabbatical would focus on taking care of personal things. While a lot of what needed to be done wasn’t fun at all, I was determined to get on stage at least once for something that was unequivocally fun. And I did.

Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids logo

In October I was thrilled to nab a spot in the Montreal edition of a show called Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids. It’s a super entertaining event and podcast, in which people read stuff they wrote as young people, whether a journal, a song, a poem, or in my case, a teenage diary. Here’s the podcast version of the show, in which I recount my high school grad-night antics. In case you want to skip ahead, I’m on at 24:00.

Making Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids host Dan Misener laugh with some of my teenage silliness
Categories
WordPress

Optimize Your Business Website

Two weeks ago, my colleague Marjorie asked if I’d be interested in helping run a webinar for small businesses, with tips on getting the most out of their website. She knew I’d done a lot of public speaking and thought I might be interested. Even though we wouldn’t have a lot of time to prepare, it took me all of three seconds to accept.

Fast forward to yesterday, when my colleague Steve Dixon and I presented a one-hour online workshop called Optimize Your Business Website: Secrets from Web Design Pros. Topics included essential pages for business sites, layout templates, the WordPress block editor, and what it takes to optimize a site so it’s both easy to find in search engines – and easy for visitors to use. We also looked at how to make sure your site is both accessible and mobile-friendly, along with a few different ways to take online bookings and payments.

The video is already up on Automattic’s YouTube channel, so feel free to check it out:

Demo Sites

Chez Sophie and Casey & Finnegan Therapy

References

Categories
Food

Why in the World is the Whole World Baking?

When I wrote my last post about the magic dough, I certainly wasn’t anticipating the current epidemic. You know, the global baking epidemic?

I don’t know about you, but my social media feeds are full of homemade chocolate-chip cookies, lemon bars, and carrot cakes. Dutch ovens stuffed with loaves of no-knead bread abound. People are whipping up impressive-looking cinnamon buns and drool-worthy biscuits – and my co-worker’s daughter even made churros.

My own frying pan was crowded with cinnamon-raisin English muffins last Sunday, filling my flat with a magical scent. Caramelized onion and artichoke heart pizza with a magic-dough crust made for several savoury meals.

Thanks to the global pandemic, home baking has exploded among the quarantined, the self-isolating, and both veteran and newbie remote workers. People are keeping their kids busy with sprinkles, while others knead out their stresses.

What is it about baking that’s so comforting in the Weird Times (officially so named by my team at work) that we’re all living through? There is clearly something comforting about baked goods that you’ve made from scratch. It reminds us of normalcy and past celebrations, it warms our bellies, and our hearts. It reminds us how lucky some of us are to be safe in our homes, able to create something delicious out of a few ingredients.

Over the last 2 days I’ve tried to buy flour at 3 different grocery stores. Sold out. Ordinarily, there’s never a run on flour — even during peak pie season! Or autumn, when you start thinking about bread and soup. Seriously, I just wanna make some pasta, bread and cookies, people. Stop hoarding stuff you won’t use.

My Friend Charlotte

On the downside, hoarding flour – as with toilet paper – is definitely a faux-pandemic-pas. Please be kind to your fellow bakers, and leave some for the rest of your neighbours!

Have you noticed unusual baking activity in your part of the world? I’m interested in hearing about it.

Remote cookie-baking with current and former co-workers (and their kids)
Categories
Food

The Magic Dough

What if I told you there’s a homemade bread dough you can put together in minutes, with only a handful of ingredients, and no rise time?

Gina (Skinnytaste) Homolka’s formula first caught my eye when she first published it as something called “Easy Bagel Recipe.” As a staunch defender of the Montreal bagel, I immediately doubted whether this concoction would resemble anything remotely like a bagel, but still I was intrigued enough to go out and buy some Greek yogurt so I could give it a try.

I was right – the result was nothing like a bagel, but it was inarguably yummy, and definitely easy!

I’ve continued to make the recipe, skipping the step of shaping them into tubes (really, why bother?), and instead rounding out the blobs of dough and baking them as rolls. I put the same dough to use for pizza – parbaking for about 10 minutes before topping – and even empanadas, stuffed with a mixture of veggies, chicken, and spices.

Honestly, this recipe has never turned out badly, no matter what I’ve done to it. Give it a try and see what you can come up with!

Skinnytaste’s Versatile Greek Yogurt Dough Recipe

  • Servings: 4 (or more) rolls, 2 pizzas, or 4 empanadas
  • Print

A simple dough for rolls, pizza, empanadas, or pseudo-bagels


1 cup (5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or a bit less table salt)
1 cup Greek yogurt (0% fat)
Optional toppings: beaten egg, egg white, or olive oil; poppy or sesame seeds

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  • With a fork, mix in yogurt.
  • Use your hands to finish blending in the yogurt and make a sticky dough. Knead about 15 times.
  • For rolls: Flour your hands, divide dough into four pieces, and shape into balls. (If you want mini-rolls, split it into 6 or more pieces instead.) Place on a greased baking sheet, or one lined with parchment paper. Optional: brush with egg or oil, sprinkle with seeds of your choice. Bake for 25 min.
  • For pizza: Roll out dough as thinly as possible and place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet or pizza pan. Brush with olive oil. Parbake for about 10 minutes, then add toppings and bake for about 20 more minutes, or until toppings are golden and cheese bubbling. I usually increase the oven temperature to about 450F for the final bake. You can also finish it off with a quick broil. (Skinnytaste also has grilled and breakfast pizza variations.)
  • For empanadas: Roll out dough and cut out circles. Fill half of each circle with your empanada mixture. I like leftover chicken or turkey, onions, peppers, mozzarella, and some spices like cumin and chili powder. Brush edges of discs with egg and flip half over the ingredients, squeezing edges to seal well. Bake for about 25 min. (Gina has more empanada ideas.)


The soup in the photo above is a variation of this minestrone recipe from Chowhound.