Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bread Baking

Early Thanksgiving week I usually bake home-made rolls to be frozen for Thanksgiving dinner and other dinners.  I have been grinding my own wheat for about 14 years now, and I have a heavy duty dough mixer that can handle 9 or more cups of flour at a time so I have also gone through periods on and off where I have made all of my breads myself.

Sometimes I will make 4 dozen rolls out of my one batch, but this year I made one dozen cloverleaf rolls (for Thanksgiving), a dozen "regular" rolls, a dozen hamburger buns (I should have made 8 rather than 12, as they ended up a bit small but that's ok), and a loaf of bread from my one recipe.  I use 100% winter white wheat berries for all of my baking, as it has all the nutrition of whole wheat (because it is whole wheat), but it bakes up very light and makes a good multi purpose flour.
The recipe is from a book called "Hearth & Home".

Place in a Bosch bowl:  3 cups warm water, 2 T instant yeast, 1/3 cup oil, 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup gluten (optional), 3 cups whole wheat flour -- mix and let sponge 10 minutes, then add 1 1/2 t salt, 3 eggs, 3 1/2-4 1/2 cups flour to until it starts to clean the bowl.  Knead for 5-6 minutes.  You can of course do all of this by hand also, but you would knead for about 15 minutes I think.  After kneading, oil your hands and the counter and dump the dough out -- divide into 4 sections, and then shape into 4 loaves, or each section into a dozen rolls, or 8 hamburger or hotdog buns, or a pizza base, or cinnamon rolls or whatever. For rolls, bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes.  I started putting these together at about noon that day, and pulled them all out of the oven at 1:20.  With instant yeast and fresh ground wheat, there is no need for rising beyond what they do while preparing and baking.

linking to Boogie Board Cottage Masterpiece Monday

Saturday, November 26, 2011


The nice thing about Thanksgiving is that it's an easy holiday.

Although one can go all out on the menu, preparing amazing dishes for appreciative company, everyone is perfectly satisfied (maybe even happier) with the tried and true never-varying menu.  The triumvirate of turkey, stuffing, gravy.  The supporting cast of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and that ubiquitous Green Bean Casserole, which we only ever had at Thanksgiving and Christmas and thus took on an importance that far exceeds what one would expect from a casserole recipe from the tradition-challenged 1960's.

The recipes (minimal), grocery list, and sequence and countdown of preparation and cooking (including which of the double ovens each thing goes into and in what order) noted on a single sheet of paper inclosed in a page protector which comes and lives beside the stove from about a week before Thanksgiving.

No thinking, little stress, easy preparation, minimal decor, and then it's over.  Tomorrow (Sunday) is supposed to be rainy and cold, and enough of the fridge should be cleared out so that I can tackle the turkey carcass and make the gallons of turkey stock and turkey soup that follow Thanksgiving.  70 degrees today, down to highs in the 30's and chance of snow on Monday and Tuesday.

linking to The House in the Roses Show off Your Cottage Monday .

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beauty Berries and Autumn Changes

Some pictures from my November garden -- so different from just a few weeks ago, when the Halloween decorations had to compete with the asters and swamp sunflowers!  The leaves have dropped from the beautyberry bushes.
The frothergilla on the far left has turned reddish/orange.

The fairies have snuggled into their house and shut the door tightly.
We had our first killing frost last week, so the tomatoes in the purple pots by the sidewalk and the okra in the bags in the median are history.

Lots of leaves and pine needles.  I'll keep the pumpkin there until after Thanksgiving, then I will move her to a place of honor in the vegetable garden, where her goddess-y self can return to the soil.
Here you can see the color of the frothergilla and the sumac trees, as well as the newly painted brick on the house.  The shutters need to go back up, and the trim needs to be painted.

We had hoped to have the front completely finished by Thanksgiving, but we had to drive to Nashville for a fencing tournament this past Saturday, and yesterday was rainy.  Today has been very rainy also, with over 2 inches in the rain gauge since yesterday.  So the garden has changed substantially again since just a few days ago.  Almost all the leaves are gone now from the trees and bushes, and just a few of the purple berries remain.  Leaves are inches deep on the ground, the sidewalks, the gutters.  Fortresses made of bagged leaves barricade our neighbors' sidewalks -- 20, 30, 50 bags of leaves in front of each house!  (not us, we mulch of course!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The sunlight fast is dwindling . . .

The sunlight fast is dwindling,
My little lamp needs kindling,
Its beam shines far in darkest night,
Dear lantern guard me with your light.
(traditional Martinmas song)

Sunday night, following expressions of interest and encouragement from newer homeschoolers in our group, we celebrated the Martinmas Lantern Festival as a group for the first time since 2006.  Prior to then we did it for years and years, as we had a core in our group that incorporated Waldorf education principles in our homeschooling and lives.  Over the years, most of that core group drifted . . . moving away, life changes that precluded homeschooling, children growing into adulthood.

Earlier this year our larger homeschool group was invigorated by an energetic group of young families, with young children, who communicate with smart phones and computer/internet message boards/forum and Facebook pages, whose decisions to homeschool more often came from dissatisfaction with the abysmal public schools here and a lack of alternatives in the private school realm, rather than a philosophical choice to adopt a more family-centric and rhythmic lifestyle.  Our group has entered a new era, looking different from the small, fairly tight knit group of 10 or 15 families that used a phone tree to remind people of activities because most families didn't even have home computers, much less the internet and email, cell phones were not invented.  Back in the 1990's you had to look pretty hard to find us, most found the group by way of La Leche League, so we were all more or less on the same page in terms of lifestyles, if not homeschooling.  But now . . . we are just a google search away.  Our group is hugely diverse now, in every imaginable way -- lifestyles, homeschool philosophies, ethnicities, beliefs -- and I believe we are the better for it, and my hope and goal is that the group will be strong enough, nurturing enough, to last beyond when the last of our core group graduates from homeschooling (in just a few years), and that some of our traditions will be carried on by this newer generation of homeschoolers.

Last night our Lantern Festival included some old core members and some of these newer homeschooling families.  After posting about our old Martinmas celebrations to our homeschool forum (where few of the "older" homeschool families visit either to read or post for a variety of reasons), some of the younger families were intrigued and interested in participating in such a thing.  So, despite not having a common base of understanding of the principles underlying the festival (not that ALL of us  EVER did, even in the old days!), we came together in a circle in the dusk, marking the season's change with story and song, halved our potatoes to share with our neighbor, broke bread from common loaves, had our potluck meal, then kindled our lanterns (some home-made, others purchased from the dollar store, some lit with flame and others lit with LED lights -- and the LED lights had the easier time of it, as the winds were ferocious here last night and keeping candles lit was a challenge!) and we all walked together around the lake at the park.

Will those younger children remember this the same way our children (now teens and adults) remember our past Martinmas festivals?  Martinmas, at least for my children, was their absolute favorite can't be missed annual event -- even when we did not have group celebrations in recent years, we would do this as a family -- there's something about walking around at night with fire in a lantern through a woodsy park that touches one in a most basic, primordial way as we begin to prepare for Yule.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Last Harvest (maybe)

The weather was predicting lows in the low 30's for last Thursday night, with possible frost -- preceded by  cold and rain on Wednesday and Thursday.  So on Tuesday, while it was sunny and in the 60's I got out in the garden to harvest out all the remaining things that could be harvested:  green tomatoes, malabar spinach, some tiny eggplants, a few okras, etc.

I believe I'll be making up a batch of Green Tomato Chutney and Green Tomato Picalilli this weekend!  And of course some fried green tomatoes.  The figs are really good stuffed with a bit of goat cheese, then wrapped with partially cooked bacon secured with a toothpick, run under the broiler for just a little while, served with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar/sugar that's been reduced.  The jalapeƱos and the okra will go into the freezer as is (no blanching or anything).  I'll use the okra in the winter in jambalaya and gumbo.  The jalapeƱos from the freezer can be used whenever a recipe calls for hot peppers or chiles.

I used most of the malabar spinach in a recipe from Rindy Mae, a southern dressing made with cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes, and greens, served with Ruby Chicken -- chicken cooked with a cranberry sauce that makes the most delicious gravy.  It was slap yo' mama AND yo' pappy good!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bookmarks from Tags

Each month at the Altered Book Club meeting, someone shares a technique or project for the group to work on there.  Last month it was making bookmarks out of shipping tags.  I'm not very good at creating something in a group setting, so I finished these at home.  They might be nice to slip into an envelope with a birthday or Christmas card.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pumpkin Soup

Every Halloween I make Pumpkin Soup for us and for the parents that hang out over here while all of our kids go trick or treating.  As the kids have gotten older, some folks come over for the pumpkin soup even if they don't have any children trick or treating!  I also make it several times over the course of the fall and winter, as it is so simple and freezes well.  And it tastes even better the second or third day.

The original recipe is from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely, but I make a number of changes.  The recipe serves 6, but I usually double it.

In a soup pot, saute a chopped onion in 1 T olive oil until very soft.  According to the recipe add in 1/8 t nutmeg and 1/2 t curry powder -- but I up this considerably -- a tablespoon of curry powder for this much soup, and sometimes add in some additional Jamaican Jerk seasoning with additional thyme for a Caribbean spin, or some sriracha (Vietnamese "rooster" sauce -- a chili and garlic type sauce), 4 cups of chicken broth, 2 cups of pumpkin puree.   Cook uncovered for 15 minutes.  Add 2 cups of milk (I substitute a can of coconut milk for some of this) carefully so the soup doesn't "break", and continue to heat gently for another 5 or so minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste, adjust seasonings as needed.  If the soup needs a little more "depth" of flavor I add a teaspoon or so of soy sauce.  In the picture, I put a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Apple Time

This week I got a post season delivery (direct to my house!  how convenient is that?) of fall produce from the CSA (Mammaw Melton's Heirloom Vegetables) that I had joined this summer.  I got a bag of turnip greens, a bag of lettuce, a bag of basil, a bag of okra, 6 or so nice sized sweet potatoes, and a nice large bag of green and ripe tomatoes.  Included also was a bag of 6 Arkansas Black Apples, baking apples.

So Saturday morning I used them to make an apple crisp.
It was a very easy recipe.  Butter or spray an 8 inch baking pan.  Slice up the apples (I didn't even peel them), dump in the pan.  Mix together about 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup of oats, about 1/2 cup of softened butter or oil, 1/2 cup of sugar, some cinnamon and nutmeg and put on top of the apples.

Bake for about 40 minutes at 375 degrees.  Have a bowl of pumpkin soup leftover from Halloween for lunch while the crisp is cooking.

Ok, that soup is soooo good -- especially after a day or two, I'll have to do a separate post about it.
notice the tomatoes and figs from my tree
Eat warmed, with a splash of milk, or whipped cream, or ice cream (or all of it, like my girls).

linking to Eat at Home

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

chandelier in place

Here is the new chandelier, hung in our dining room.  Can you believe our neighbor was just going to throw this out??!!

The windows face east, so I am hoping that at some point in the day, at some time in the year, morning sun will pour in and refract off of the crystals!

I may have to alter my Christmas Dining Room decor a bit -- usually I hang a bunch of garland and frou frou from the chandelier (our old standard mid '70's builder grade faux brass thing), but that would obscure the crystals.