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Mick Marsden

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Home Improvements That Actually Increase Your Property Value

Whether you’ve decided to sell your home or are just considering an update for your own personal enjoyment, you probably want to make sure the upgrades will add value to your property. After all, homeowners don’t want to sink money into something they may never get back. That being the case, there are several improvements you might consider that can greatly improve the resale value of your home.

Get a New Roof

You might have the most beautiful kitchen potential home buyers have ever seen, but if you have a leaky roof, they will automatically assume the house isn’t well kept and that they could be standing in a money pit. And they’re not wrong. Leaky roofs can cause all kinds of interior damage, such as mold and deteriorating ceilings.

 

A new roof can add value to your home. That could mean a huge difference in the price you sell your home for. But how do you know who to hire to replace the roof? You may not realize it, but according to Angie’s List, there are several roofing scams to look out for, including inadequate repair, overcharging, and unneeded repairs. In order to avoid some of these scams, here’s what you need to do:

 

● Get references. Don’t be afraid to ask around town and everyone you know. Chances are that if they’ve scammed someone else, you will hear about it quickly.

● Get several estimates. Talk to more than one roofer and get estimates and opinions from all. If one out of five roofers you talk to gives you a quote that seems unreasonable, chances are they are either out to scam you, or they don’t know what they’re doing.

● Take care of your roof. Don’t wait until the damage is out of hand to hire a roofer. At that point, you may not have the expertise to know if the repairs they suggest are unreasonable or not.

Plant a Tree

According to the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers, “A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000.” This is huge all by itself, but the USDA also states that the cooling effect of one of these trees equals about “ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” Imagine the energy savings it creates!

Replace the Front Door

It’s amazing the impact a nice front door can have on a house’s curb appeal. And according to U.S. News, it is one of the most significant updates you can do when trying to increase the property value of the home. But if your door is already in good shape, sometimes a new coat of paint in a complementary color may be all it needs.

Paint the Walls

But not just any color will do. According to Business Insider, there are certain colors for each room that make your house more appealing. For example, light blues and soft grays make a kitchen most appealing, whereas light beiges and taupes are the preferred colors for living rooms.

 

If you are planning a home update or renovation, make sure you focus on the projects that add the most value. Many people make improvements that don’t make much difference when it comes time to sell, and end up being disappointed at the time and money they spent on them. Take for example a swimming pool. In most areas, a pool does not significantly increase the property value compared to the cost to install it. So make sure you are putting your resources to the best possible use.

 

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is truly an art...

by Mick Marsden

Everyone I think at this point knows the saying “you are what you eat”. Take a look around and you’ll see lots of folks who’ve chosen to go for the empty calories. What you observe is that more than half of those you’ll see walking around the mall are overweight to morbidly obese. What you can’t necessarily see or know in this crowd are the health problems that go along with being overweight like hypertension and other heart diseases, joint and back problems yet you’ll see them lined up at Cinnabon. If these conditions are not Part of their lives now, it’s more a matter of when than if they contract one or more problems like that. 

 



 

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. 

Hippocrates

 

It’s tough to maintain your health and a healthy lifestyle if you’re not eating right. But what does eating right really mean? Did you realize a change of diet, the right diet for YOU, could help cure what ails you? It can restore your energy and give you a brighter outlook on life. Perhaps you’ll keep your chronic conditions at bay as well. But where do you start?

 

There are folks dedicated to helping you get it right and on a path to long lasting health and well being. I’d like to introduce you to my friend and master nutritionist!

 

 

Brigitta Jansen, MS, practices Functional Medicine Nutrition in Connecticut. As a nutritionist, she aims to address the root cause of disease. Her nutrition philosophy is to address the root cause of disease and support the body’s innate ability to heal itself. All disease begins in the gut, including autoimmune disorders, autism, depression, skin issues, overweight, diabetes and more. Brigitta focuses on healing the gut using the 5R program, as well as detoxing and addressing nutrient deficiencies. She uses careful analysis of blood chemistry, metabolic testing, GI panels, food sensitivity testing, genetic testing and hormone testing as well as a thorough diet and health history to determine what her clients' individual needs are. She then designs personalized diet and supplement plans to rebalance biochemistry and help her clients achieve optimum health and vitality.

Our bodies are our gardens our wills are our gardeners.      

William Shakespeare


Brigitta Jansen is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Bridgeport where she obtained her Masters in Human Nutrition. Additionally, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from University College London, UK. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi and the American College of Nutrition. As a nutritionist and longtime local food activist, she is passionate about helping people discover the healing power of real food. Besides nutrition, her interests include biodynamic farming, hiking, yoga and playing music. For more info and free nutrition workshops visit jansennutrition.com.

 

 

Couples put strain on their relationships for a variety of reasons, but the most common sources of strife tend to center on money. Buying a home together is a big, exciting step for many couples, but it does put a lot of money on the line, both for now and for the future. It’s understandable that home buying has the potential to put anyone’s relationship—no matter how strong—in potential jeopardy. Here are some home-buying tips for couples.

 

Get on the same page about your wants and needs

 

The above could be good advice for any part of a relationship, but it’s especially important when it comes to home buying. Suzy, for instance, may want an older house in an older neighborhood. Sam may have always dreamed of living in a brand-new house in the country. Suzy may prioritize safely in her neighborhood, while Sam may prioritize proximity to work. As a couple, you must talk honestly about what you want in a house—from how many floors, how large, the backyard situation, etc. Until you come to some sort of compromise, you shouldn’t even begin to look for homes. 

 

Find your optimal budget and then shoot lower

 

Purchasing a home without doing a thorough audit of both of your incomes, debt, and other financial obligations is crazy (for more on debt-to-income ratios and affordability calculations, check here). Figure out what you can afford, and then look for homes that price a little lower than that. Give yourself some wiggle room.  If you go into the home-shopping process with a strict budget in mind, it can help you avoid arguments and force you to make logical, non-emotional decisions.

 

Also make sure you discuss the payment load. Who is going to pay for what? Are you going to split things 50-50? 70-30? As Realtor.com says, you can’t plan for things with a hug and a kiss. Spell it out. Put it in writing if you must.

 

Don’t make everything about house hunting

 

Looking for a home can quickly monopolize your entire life. It can consume every moment of free time you have—searching online, talking finances, going to open houses, etc. It’s fun most of the time, but it can wear on you. You must not let it get out of hand. You will find the perfect house. It doesn’t have to happen in a couple of weeks. 

 

Make sure you take a break from looking for a home to focus on your relationship. Have fun outside the realm of house hunting. Focus on being healthy together. Eat right and exercise together. Take a short vacation. Anything you can do to make your relationship a priority will help you come out the other side of this stressful experience stronger and happier. 

 

If unmarried, decide on how you take title

 

Once you’ve found a home, you’re going to have to figure out how to take title. This is easy if you’re married, but if you’re an unmarried couple, this can be confusing. There’s sole ownership, joint tenancy, or tenancy in common, all of which have their benefits and challenges. Yes, this means having a healthy talk about the future. As a loving, committed couple, you surely aren’t thinking about breaking up anytime soon, but having the talk will actually help you to de-stress.

 

In the end, remember to have fun. Yes, it’s a big commitment. Yes, you’re throwing around a lot of money. And yes, you will be forced to make decisions about your future as a couple. But this is one of those life events that you don’t get to experience that often. Take a step back, realize you’re in this together, and go from there. 

 

Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash

My wife tagged along with me one day last week when I was showing homes in Old Saybrook. It was around 2pm and asked her what she’d like to have for lunch before we headed home. Because we both are known to be pretty fair scratch cooks and bakers choosing a restaurant is always a challenge. She was loath to choose a burger place, one of the ubiquitous seafood restaurants or asian food and was undecided. I decided looked at my Yelp in the hopes we find something new and fresh and did we ever hit a pay dirt. 

 

 

Opened just 7 months, I found Himalaya Cafe…slated as an Indian Bistro & Lounge. It had a menu that lined up with our sensibilities and mood! We headed that way…they were open just 30 minutes more.  

 

 

Himilaya Cafe, the vision and creation of Sanjay Odedra, is conveniently located at 1456 Boston Post Rd. in Old Saybrook. Don’t let the modest façade fool you…when you enter you’ll be impressed! Sanjay created an inner sanctum that’s both interesting and unique. It’s a space that is true to his vision which is a destination where people could come to relax, be casual, memorable and a departure from restaurant norms. In my humble opinion he made he more than accomplished this.

 

He designed all the furniture that was handcrafted in India which used reclaimed lumber from a decommissioned fishing boat. The finishes vary from clear finishes over uber-thick Koa wood juxtaposed with the whimsical & wonderful tropical colors of the bygone fishing boat that provides a warm, well-worn patina that only time and the sea could provide. I loved the lower table height at table for two by the window where I could take in all the wonderful artifacts Sanjay has collected during his travels...each telling its own story. 

 

  

I stopped by one day to talk to Sanjay but he was out for the day and instead had the pleasure to speak his sister Sima Odedra who clearly runs the show. One can tell Sima loves whats she is doing as she just exudes a happy and welcoming energy. She works tirelessly to realize the vision Sanjay had for Himalaya Cafe. 
 

I quickly learned during our conversation that the Himilaya Cafe as I experienced it in month 7 was more an evolution than the original plan:  a cozy, warm, inviting space where one could come relax and converse over drinks and small plates. 

 


Deepak Sanap, Chef Extraordinaire

 

Enter Deepak Sanap (my new best friend;) and the executive chef! With 20 years experience, Deepak is the creator of the very wonderful menu that changes often and never disappoints. He just didn’t fall into the culinary world he pursued it beginning with graduating as pastry chef at just 17 from YWCA Mumbai. He got lucky at age 18 with a 5 year stint at Taj, the 5-Star Hotel chain owned by Sheraton. He was then head chef and baker on a British cruise line before migrating to the USA. He’d then spend his next decade plus honing his skills and talents owning and operating his own restaurants alone and n partnership in Ohio and New Jersey until he returned to India for a short hiatus. When he returned to the USA he came to be Himalaya Cafe’s venerable, talented and deft executive chef. 

 

Deepak Sanap making papadam 

 

The menu is admittedly limited so they can concentrate on the quality and scratch preparation of each dish using the finest local and imported ingredients. Oh man is it the right game plan. As I returned for a third time eating off both regular and their specials menu I was transported to another world yet again. Sima spoke of their plans to slowly expanding their fair into gluten free offerings as well. They do so much in such a small space. 

 

Everything we tasted was over the moon and unlike any other Indian restaurant we’ve had the pleasure of trying. Starting with the simple papadam normally offered at such restaurants you’ll Immediately you notice a difference. 

 

Theirs are prepared on premises as they arrive to the table rolled, not flat, with some flame charred spots for extra flavor. It’s with a mango chili pepper chutney to dip as opposed to the trite trio of tamarind, green sauce, and pickled onions offered elsewhere. The Paneer Tikka, a seasoned cheese and baked in the tandoor oven was unique. The onion appetizer special incredible! 

 

The Korma is other worldly packed with flavor, texture, complexity and depth. The long grain jasmine rice is delicate, fluffy, aromatic, moist…perfect.  There delicious naan a perfect companion to the aforementioned offered plain, garlic or sesame seed,  my personal fav.  

 

  

 

The mango lassi is not out of a jug as I’ve caught some other places pouring…it too is made from scratch. The chicken vindaloo is also remarkable in its depth, flavor and texture. 

 

When I returned to do the interview for this blog I had to have the Chicken Korma again. If it could be, it seemed better than the last time as did every bite I enjoyed. I am swept away when dining there. Even Deepak’s kheer, their rice pudding,  is over the moon with it’s rich, creamy texture, and the wonderful addition of chewy blonde raisins perfectly sautéed into chewy candies and nuts makes it all that more memorable.

 

I loved eating at the bar and seeing Deepak work in the open kitchen as Alyse, our friendly and competent waitress, met our every need. For me I never once needed to ask for at thing. 

 

 

If you love Indian food and seek a different experience along Connecticut’s shoreline I whole heartedly recommend Himalaya Cafe. You will not be disappointed. I noted a Salvatore Dali quote on the wall...”Don’t fear perfection. You’ll never achieve it!”  Deepak has shown Dali he was wrong. If Deepak’s food isn’t perfection it’s as close as you’ll ever experience.

 

 

When you go please tell them Mick & Lizzy sent you!

If you do Sima promises you a free desert!

 

Don't you love their sense of humor? Being married it's more correct than a joke!

Marc Nadeau is one of the most reputable and competent appraisers I know. He's done great work for me in the past and in properties that were daunting to appraise. When I read his recent article: Demographic shifts and the impact on real estate values - by Marc Nadeau I felt the need to share his perspective. They sound, articulated in anyone grasp. 

So if you're seller or buyer you need to read this. 

How a stray cat upstaged my church pastor!

by Gigi Giordano

St. Mary’church in Clinton has been like the hub on a wheel in my life with many spokes radiating from it’s center: Mom and Dad were married at St. Mary's and buried in the cemetery. So it’s no surprise that my brother and I were baptized there, took catechism our first communion there and became confirmed. 

 

Who knew we’d all be upstaged by a stray cat?! One of our wonderful priests, Father Michael Sequeira, and the now famous stray black cat that would later be known as Roman CatHolic has been memorialized in a book titled: “Stories of an Outstanding Cat”  

 

Since the cat emerged onsite back in 1997 Fr. Mike had no idea of the positive impact it would have on his life. Roman the cat passed away in 2015.  I think you’ll this self-published book I think you’ll find uplifting and insightful. While every one had thought he had rescued him it had turned out that the cat rescued Fr. Mike. 

 

Visit: https://anoutstandingcat.com to read more about this wonderful story and to buy the book. Here’s 

 

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORIES

 

 

If you have a furry friend, feline or otherwise, you talk to it, right? Probably even have conversations with it. (We all do.)

 

And so it was when the pastor of a church in Clinton, Connecticut encountered a lost cat several days in a row on the grounds of the rectory he called home. A pact he made with the cat for a one-night living arrangement came undone when the rescued cat did not live up to his campaign promise to be gone after one night.

 

It soon became clear to everyone who knew them, that it was this cat he had named Roman Catholic who rescued Father Michael and not the other way around. And what followed was fifteen years of their sometimes conflicting needs coalescing into a relationship of devotion to one another and to the parishioners to whom they ministered.

 

The life, adventures, musings, and lessons learned from the beloved, sassy cat became stories that Father Michael would tell to his congregants. In retirement from his busy ministry, he has written them down in a treasure of delightful vignettes. And like Levy’s secular rye bread, you don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy them!

 

Here’s a couple of sample pages and excerpts for you to get a sense of what he put together. It’s beautifully illustrated.

 

 

 

 

Making Pizza Napoletana in your home oven!

by Mick Marsden

 

There's such gratification to sit down to a meal you make from just ingredient and not from a box. The taste, quality and nutrition best any restaurant (unless they're cooking from scratch too) so you save a bunch of money and you may even lose a few pounds. That said...my sister wanted me to make my home made pizza for her and to watch a movie.  She loves it because it rivals the best you'd get in New Haven! Being a lover of Sally's and Pepe's pizza since my teens I HAD to learn to make pizza napoletana. This was to be one of the last oven cooked pizza's we will do until Fall. If we do pizza in summer we cook in on the grill which is a different approach.


No...I don't own a pizza oven. The pizza pictured was made on a pizza steel followed by a brief stint under the broiler to create the caramelization that occurs in the 600+ degree coal and wood fired ovens used commercially. 

So let's being with making the dough. It's simple but you must think ahead for the best tasting crust. I proof my dough in a refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours to as many as 3-4 days ahead. If you wait 3 days the flavor is off the hook! Here's the recipe. Hey...if you've never baked in your life or never once made dough...don't be intimidated. I can't believe how easy it is and not sure why I didn't convert to a "scratch cooking" house way sooner. For this pizza dough you need just the 4 basic ingredients for any rustic good bread: Water, Flour, Yeast and Salt. 

Before I lay it out...it's great to buy a cheap $30-40 food scale with baker's percentage feature. It will allow you to scale up or down any recipe you're making quite easily. It's one way to garner predictable results each time you step to the bake as well as a time saver. 

Napoletana Pizza Dough
(The following portions will make 4 pies)
.5 liter water (500grams...isn't metric wonderful?)
1.9g Instant Dry Yeast (Pay Attention here...this is the Rapid Rise variety)
27.5g salt
850g flour
10g olio

Bakers Percentages for Scale Users

60% hydration 
3.2% Salt
1% Oil 
.5 % IDY 

Process

Weigh our your 500g of flour and add the yeast. Distribute yeast by mixing dry with whisk. 

In a large bowl add .5 liters luke warm water then add the salt and dissolve by agitating with your fingers. Once dissolved at the 10g of olio and agitate that into the water. 

Now add half of the flour mixture and mix with your fingers until fairly smooth. Once there add the balance and mix into the bowl until it's pretty much a ball of sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface with will floured hands. Knead this dough for 10-15 minutes until its a soft, pliable dough. Wet a cotton tea towel and cover it and let it rise for at hour or so. 

Remove the towel and slide your dough scraper under the edges to free the dough from the work surface  and cut the dough ball in half. (By the way if you want a video on how to do these steps go to https://www.youtube.com/user/maestrovitoiacopelli; While I have been an accomplished home chef for years I just started baking and doing all from scratch for about a year and I learned how to bake by watching masters on youtube. The recipe above is a derivation of Vito's recipe which I've made. Fresh yeast is not so easy to come by and has a short shelf life so I created the equivalent for Instant Dry Yeast you can by by the jar and save a bundle.)

Using this recipe you can simply divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. (a 14" pizza the dough ball should be about 300g) If you scale it up or do Vito's full recipe then you'd approach it by eyeballing a just under the size of a baseball. Use the scale and you'll develop judgement. 

Put the balls in a proofing box if you own one or on a floured full size cookie spaced apart so they can rise as separate units.  Once on the cookie sheet flour the balls with a little flour and cover airtight with plastic wrap (not doing so will result in a ball with a dry outer crust...not good!) 

Put the tray in the refrigerator. Go have fun doing something else until tomorrow or a couple days later when it's time to stretch them and bake them up. 

Once proofed remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temp. Once at room temp sprinkle flour on and around the ball your going to take. Get the dough scraper (you can use a paint scaper if you don't have a dough scraper) under the ball pushing the flour with it. Get it up and out on to your work surface. 

Stretch the pie NOT by trying to toss over your head in the air. Not that kind of dough. Instead simply press from the middle out gently on a well floured surface in a circular motion (Vito's video is tops showing you how!).

Once you formed your 12 to 14 inch pie move it to your  pizza peel that you sprinkle some semolina or flour so it will slide off when ready.  

Ladle on some milled or crushed San Marzano (Quality important!!) tomatoes, sprinkle some olio, and your other toppings. The photo shows a pie made with Parmigiano-Reggiano, Luizzi's of New Haven Mozzarella, and Vermont Smoked and Cured pepperoni I hand-cut thick. 


How to Cook to Your Pie at Home Without a Pizza Oven

Move your oven rack to the top near your broiler and giving enough room for the pie to slide in and under it. 

Put your pizza steel (best) or stone (2nd best) and turn oven to highest setting. 500° or higher if it lets you. Allow the pizza steel to heat in the oven for at least 20 minutes. I sometimes turn on the broiler to kick that plate temp up as high as I can get it before sliding the pie from my pizza peel. 

When the time is right, make sure your pizza hasn't begun to stick to the peel, open the oven door and put the pizza peel all the way in over the steel and gently shake it to move towards the end and onto the steel. When a little bit of the dough hits the steel pull the peel back quickly...like pulling a table cloth out from under place settings. 

Bake for about 5 minutes on the steel. The springy outer crust will have puffed and risen and it will start to brown up. Next turn on the broiler and keep it there until it looks like it came out of Sally's coal fired oven in New Haven. 

Once you master this...you'll never have to go out to New Haven or a Pepe's location to get a napoletano pizza...because you will have become a maestro!

____________________

My next blog will be on how to make THE BEST hamburger and hot dog rolls. In fact, this dough is so versatile it will be your go to recipe for lots more. Until then...

 

Once you eat a slice of your own warm bread from the oven you can't go back. By the time a loaf of bread hits your shopping basket it was baked long ago. It may be "fresh" but it's not the same. It's also not as healthy, costs more, and has ingredients ("to preserve freshness") in it I'd never put in my bread dough. 

While my favorite "Rustic Bread" recipe is a mere 5 minutes to make (See previous blog titled "Your mother cooked from scratch, now it's your turn") and great to have with say Ravioli di Ovo but not quite the right fit for your lunch sandwich or for traditional bacon and eggs in the AM.



Ravioli Di Ovo: I will do a blog with my recipe on how to make these. It's a cheese ravioli
with an egg yolk on top of the ricotta cheese filling . I serve it with a sage butter sauce with crisp pancetta.
The oozing yolk mixing with the Italian bacon and sage butter is heavenly!

 


Mmmm....a nice start to the day!

Amish White Bread

My favorite go to recipe is an Amish recipe that I tweaked to my liking and increased in volume create two perfect loafs. One I sometime roll up with cinnamon for a wonderful cinnamon swirl loaf or I simple freeze a loaf for future use. Any of the bread you bake can be frozen after it's cool. Once thawed it will be as fresh as it came out of the oven. Here's my recipe both in baker's percentages and measured volume:

Prep time: 20 minutes with 2 hours of rising time
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 2 hours 25 mins

Serves: 2 loaves

Ingredients
* 2 Cups warm water about 110-120 degrees (472g)
* ⅔ Cups white sugar (134g)
* 1½ Tablespoons yeast (2 packages) ADY Active Dry Yeast
* 1½ Teaspoons salt (9g)
* ¼ cup vegetable oil (218g)
* 6 cups flour( 762g / 381g)

Bakers Ratios:
Hydration: 61%
Sugar: 17.5%
ADY: 1.5%  |  IDY 1%
Salt: 1.2%
Safflower Oil or melted butter: 10% 

 

Instructions
1. Place sugar and 40°c water in warmed mixing bowl 
2. Sprinkle with yeast and let dissolve 5-15 minutes 
3. Add salt, oil and half the flour mix together
4. Add remaining flour and mix till its pulling away from the sides.
5. Pull out onto lightly floured surface and knead shortly
6. Place in greased bowl flipping to cover both sides.
7. Top with saran wrap or damp warm towel
8. Set aside in draft free area and let rise till doubles in size. About 1 hour
9. Remove cover and punch down.
10. Lay out on lightly floured surface and cut in half and form into two equal loaves.
11. Flatten one out into rectangle and "jelly" roll into a loaf with cinnamon sugar if you want to make one white and one cinnamon sugar loaf)
12. Place in greased 9x5 bread pans.
13. Repeat with other half
14. Cover and let rise till double in size about 30-50 minutes.
15. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees or 325° convection.
16. Once double in size bake for 25-30 minutes.
17. Pull out and brush top with butter if you like. 
18. Let rest 10 minutes before removing to cooling rack.

 

Your mother cooked from scratch...now it's your turn!

by Mick Marsden

If you're a baby boomer your mother no doubt cooked from scratch or close to it. Think back and remember how your steak and chicken tasted. Think about its texture, its flavor. Miss it? If you're not a baby boomer you've no doubt been out to dinner at a great restaurant and remember the meal as being sensational. The crusty and airy bread. The pasta texture and flavor you’ve never had at home. A unique dish like balsamic amereno cherries with pork belly or a steak au poivre that was simply killer delicious.  It most likely it was something that restaurant cooked these dishes not only from scratch but with locally sourced, organic ingredients.

 

Grass Fed Strip Steak Au Poivre—Wonderful!

 

In my previous blog “How I lost 40 pounds eating ice cream once a week” I discussed my transition from living the life advertising and big agriculture would have me do transitioning to cooking everything from scratch. And I mean everything. In our home we make every strand of pasta, every hamburger roll, pita bread, English Muffin, every slice of bread. Our sauces are made from local produce and things we grew or from local farms from my wife’s food service CT Farm Fresh Express. We know where are food and ingredients come from. I do not trust any corporation or our government to do us right here. Too many sleazy politician keep their agricultural states financially healthy while pretending to care about our health. So make everything yourself and stop eating out of a package, box and microwave oven. Stop the drive-through fast food game and soda. Stop buying food made by a company who put it in a box or package for you to consume because it’s easy. It’s killing you! 

 

When I suggest someone do the same and transition to scratch cooking the push back I get immediately is ”I don't have the time" (Which is exactly how big agriculture and the advertising campaigns have got you eating out of a box or package) Another one is I don’t know how to cook or. bake. I’ve got an answer for that as you’ll soon read. 

 

Want the best reason to keep an open mind and consider what I’m saying? Just look at the obesity epidemic in our country! You don’t have to go far or on Google. Just go to the mall and look what waddles around the mall! More than 50% are super overweight and they’re ok with it. They want to stuff those Cinnabons and empty carbs and sugar from the food court and embrace their curves and such. Hey…let me not judge an overweight person. I was on seriously overweight dude…I just shed the reasons for carrying the weight and decided I wanted my cardiovascular system to work less hard, to stay out of the OR for back surgeries and knee replacements because I was carrying around 40 pounds of Crisco around my belly, legs, and ass. Shit…I was on my way to being a weeble like the folks at the mall I just mentioned…those children of the corn syrup. These are very people who eat franchised food, processed foods, sugary drinks, and all of the things you're not supposed to but do anyway because they “don't have the time.” Since I lost my weight my blood pressure returned to normal and I then stopped taking the prescription medications that used to keep it low when I was a dough boy. 

 

What if I told you it takes me literally 30 minutes a week to prepare my family bread needs? Because it does! It just takes a little planning. And boy, will your grocery list change for the better! You will spend less, eat what seems like 5-Star restaurant meals every night! You’ll lose weight and keep the weight you've lost off…all while improving your health outlook without doubt.

 

Have you ever dined at La Marea in old Saybrook? Or Rustica in Chester, CT? These are two restaurants that make many of their meals, if not all of them, from scratch. They make their pastas and ravioli from semolina, flour, water, eggs, salt, and oil…just like I do at home.  It has 5-Star reviews as a result! It keeps people coming back because they want that incredible tender delicious meal intense flavor and wonderful texture and aroma!  The tender pastas you can’t get out of a box. The  sweet marina sauces cannot be had out of a jar nor the savory steaks that are grass fed and sides that aren't out of the can or freezer.

 

 

When I think about it, the restaurants I frequent are those that cook from scratch! Especially since I have committed to becoming a scratch cook myself I seek only those restaurants that do prepare there foods from scratch with the best local ingredients possible. It's more expensive at these restaurants because eating at  their competitors you get dishes that are composed from ingredients procured from Cisco, US foods or Restaurant Depot in Hartford. These folks are simply or heat and serve cooks. In fact it's hard to even say the word chef or cook in that sentence.

 

In future blogs on food I will share a recipes and the technique along with a photo of the dish for you to consider cooking yourself. I’ll also include a photo of the finished dish what will taste as good at it looks it you take me up on this. 

 

Family Ties

One of the most important reasons to cook from scratch and to make a family meal each day is to Bring your family together and get closer. Now that’s an ancillary benefit beyond better health, taste and enjoyment then I can think of. 

 

Mick’s Rustic Bread Recipe

 

 

Allow me to share my favorite rustic bread recipe which takes literally five minutes to make, no special tools boring gradients to have on hand! This is what it will look like and it tastes as good as it looks!

 

If you've never baked or cut from scratch don't use that as an excuse either. While I have been quite an accomplished chef for years, I virtually didn't know baking it all when I decided to go scratch completely I had to learn everything and it was easy with YouTube. Finding a variety of recipes to follow and to tweak to your liking is also easy. Until six months ago hi big nothing at all like I do today. I learned how to do this following the people I chose to watch on YouTube!

 

Ingredients: 

Flour (Suggest Caputo 00 Chef’s flour)

Water

Salt

Instant Dry Yeast (IDY)

 

Start with whatever flour amount you wish. For a nice boule cooked in a 3.5 qt. Dutch Oven I use 450-500 grams of Caputo 00 Chefs Flour (I should mention that if anyone reading this it Is gluten intolerant and not silly at that you'll love to know that using this flower we'll have you eating delicious bread with gluten without the side effects you had while eating the hybridized American flower found in today's all-purpose flowers you find at the grocery store. I’ll be writing a blog on this topic alone as it’s a big discovery. 

 

78% h2o (I use 40° centigrade water in a warmed stainless steel bowl.)

2% NaCL

1% IDY

 

By using the percentages above whether you're starting with 500 g of flour for 1500 g of flour your results will not vary. So if you need to make 10 loaves, no problem!  Start with 5000 grams of flour and add the other ingredients by percentage weights.  The advantage of working with weight instead of volume for your measurements mean that you're results won’t vary! You can count on a great loaf of bread each and every time!

 

If you are familiar with baking you are also familiar with a bakers scale. If not, you can buy one for about $50 and owning one will make it both easy and efficient to bang out your recipes with great aplomb! 

 

If you don’t have a scale then measure the following: 

4c Caputo 00 flour 

1.75c Water water

1tsp Kosher Salt

1.5tsp IDY

 

Process:

1. Place the empty bowl you’re using on top of the scale and press the ‘tare’ button zero it out. Taring the bowl allows you to weight only what two put in the bowl. Once done add the flour…so for a single loaf let’s do 450 grams. 

 

2. Press the “%” button on the  the scale to let it know you’re looking for baker’s percentages for that amount of flour. 

 

3. Press the ’Tare’ button again to reset to zero. Add the salt slowly until you see 2% show up in the display.

 

4. Tare the bowl then add Instant Dry Yeast  (IDY) until you see a reading of 1%. (It is extremely important that you understand the difference between instant dry yeast and active dry yeast. While you can use either you must adjust for the difference. So it's best to use what's called for in the recipe unless you have the experience to convert.)

 

5. Whisk the dry ingredients together.

 

6. Tare bowl again and add 78% water.

 

7. Mix all ingredients together with silicone spatula and expect a very sticky dough. No kneading necessary.

 

8. Cover it with two pieces of plastic wrap making sure there is no air gaps as it will dry out the surface of your dough while it is proofing. Once you put the wrap on put it in your refrigerator for 24 hours or up to a week.

 

9. When you're ready to bake it take it out of the refrigerator and place it on top of the oven. Put your Dutch oven, preferably cast iron, with its lid on in your oven a rack so it’s in the middle of the oven and crank your dial to 450° convection if you have it. 475° if yo don’t. Once the oven comes to temperature continue to heat the Dutch oven empty inside for another 10 to 20 minutes.

 

10. When the oven has come to temperature flower your hands well and a clean surface to work on. Scoop the dough out with your dose scraper, spatula, or hands, onto the floured work surface. Again with flowered hands gently shape the ball of dough into a ball. Once the dutch oven has heated it’s 10-20 minutes open the oven and slide out the rack. Take the lid off and set aside. As quickly as you can so as not to lose heat in your oven, scoop the dough up and drop it into the pot. (You’ll get great at this!) 

 

11. Cook the low for the next 30 minutes with the lid on. Take the lid off and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until it reaches a Nice golden brown. It makes a better cross if you have a spray bottle with water in it and spray loaf a couple of times in the first five minutes with the lid off which helps improve the crust

 

12. The loaf will fall out of the pan when you take it out of the oven. Place it on a cooling rack until it temperature which you can handle and cut it. It will have that crusty wonderful outside you have found at finer Italian restaurants to do their own bacon and with A soft and tender interior Full of those wonderful holes and gaps to grab your butter and sauce.

 

So there you have it! Five minutes to mix the dough and no meeting. Simply wait four for day for a week and thrown in the oven for 40 minutes and you have a loaf of bread that cost you next to nothing to make, will be as delicious as the best restaurant you remember having good bread that, you better for you, and you have the satisfaction of knowing you're able to produce something so wonderful run for simple ingredients you have in your home

 

Don't hesitate to make comments, write be questions, or keep the conversation going

 

Italian Ciabatta Loaf made with "Biga" or starter. 

 

How I lost 40 Pound Eating Ice Cream Once a Week

by Mick Marsden

 

I thought the title may get your attention. I’ll explain how the ice cream made it’s way into this article as it played a pivotal part for real! 

 

This is the first in a series of blogs on eating right, losing weight in a healthy way and keeping it off, and the like. So back to the title. I admittedly love to eat. And after marrying the love of my life and feeling content, both she and I added a whole bunch of weight enjoying each other’s company along with too much food! 

 

Are you one who has battled some weight issues through your life? It really didn’t matter how many times Suzanna, my family doctor, begged me to lose weight each year and the health benefits. I’m sure you’re much the same. But for me after a spine surgery followed by injuring the same, and bi-lateral partial knee replacements, I decided the weight was costing me way too much in pain, a loss of function and lifestyle, and of course why wait for a heart attack to get motivated. 

 

During my recovery from my knee surgery I decided to get serious. When I started rehab at Gladeview, which was the catapult to my success and recovery, my calorie intake of course was much different than before surgery when I tended to overeat. My diet was controlled there. This helped me take the first steps to get to a goal weight where my therapist there and Doctors have always wanted it to be...

 

When I came home I lost 5 of the 226 pounds on my 5’ 10” frame. My waist was able to withstand the pressure from a 38 in waist band but I had a huge basketball that hung over. Strain on the back and of course was not helping the new knees get to where I needed  them. 

 

Each week we bring our grand children to the Moodus ice cream parlor each week. I wasn’t sitting idly by so I was a willing participant in consumption…but this time around I wasn’t grabbing the large hot fudge Sunday but a small cone. The place we visit has a TV on the wall and we would sit and watch Guy Guittieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives which is a show that highlights exception places that make food from scratch. What I was seeing was what I grew up eating. Good food, sourced locally, but everything made from scratch. That was it! I proclaimed us a Scratch House going forward. 

 

You should know at this juncture that my wife founded and runs a 10 year old farm to home delivery service and for years we’ve only eaten food that was locally sourced. We did by lots of things still from grocery stores like bottled sauces, breads, rolls, pasta, pancake mixes, and the like. But no more! I now bake every loaf of bread, rolls, pasta, and even pancake mix. What I found was its was no more time consuming than what I was doing before. 

 

Over the next few months I used a fabulous app on my iPhone called Lose-It! I configured the app with my stats and it suggested an amount of calories to help me maintain my portion intake. I made and ate only scratch made local food, choices more high in proteins, and watched my weight drop comfortably and steadily forcing me to buy all new clothes! I reached 186 and have maintained it between 185 and 189 for now 16 months. I’m delighted. I eat great food in satisfying portions and don’t avoid fat, sugar, and food types that have been trendy. Just common sense eating. Mindful eating. Paying attention to everything I put in my mouth. 

 

There is virtually no fast food in my life…like a stop at 5 Guys…but that’s great fresh ground beef and real potatoes. I won’t do your McDonalds etc. thing…that’s not helpful. 

 

 

If I motivated you to even consider it…I’m delighted. I will write more blogs sharing how I can make the best rustic artisan bread in literally 5 minutes with no kneading that is both healthy and cost effective. Easy white loaf bread…this recipe just a 20 minute effort to gain 2 wonderful loafs of white bread from your sandwiches and toast, pasta and more. 

 

Thanks for reading. Have a happy, healthy day!

 

Lose It! – Weight Loss Program and Calorie Counter on the App Store

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