Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gobble Gobble

I survived Thanksgiving and it was much better than it might have been thanks to an invite from wonderful friends. HM and Miss V were both gone and it fell in the middle of what ended up being the longest weekend in the history of ever. (9 days people! and to think , I used to homeschool....) Good food, good company and pies...not to mention the Serbian Anarchist Raspberry Wine (not mine - no Serbs in the family). The previous year's vintage had been compared unfavorably to turpentine and I was one of only a few willing to try it.  " A fruity insolent bottle with hints of berry, watermelon, and lighter fluid" It was much improved by the addition of a little orange juice. Note to self: get this boozemaking thing down well before the apocalypse. The middle of a global collapse is no time to be without the makings for a smooth martini.

Yesterday I ventured out in search of a screaming deal on a fake tree. It eludes me still. I did pick up a couple sleds for T1 & T2 and fuggs for Este' plus the yarn for T1's much coveted pointy hat (T2's was completed last Sunday but the ice storm stood in the way of the acquisition of necessary supplies). After all that, I just couldn't face any more and we came home. Today we ventured out again for Volvo parts, skinny jeans, a hoodie, and a small costco run. The Volvo Doctor confirmed that I totally scored with my beloved 240 wagon- always gratifiying to have that sort of thing confirmed by an expert. He also liked my bumper stickers!

Having Miss V gone is kinda sad. I miss her face. However, she's having a wonderful time and I'm very glad of it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Soaked Biscuits

sorry folks- no pictures. The camera is dead and a new one isn't in the budget this week.

Last week I rode out to the farm to show my friend Shelley the ropes of making the milk run for our cow share co-op. She's a biologist by training and shares my interest in nutrition and traditional foods. To be totally honest, I have resisted the whole soak-your-grains  thing. I tried it once, made bread like a door stop and went right back to grinding fresh and baking immediately. But on the ride Shelley told me about a guy who is a serious scientist and working on issues of the neurobiology of fat metabolism and other interesting and related stuff & convinced me that I should give grain soaking some more effort. I'm sure that I won't be doing it all the time- it takes a lot more prior planning and I draw the line at Christmas baking. Soaked whole grain sugar cookies just sound too gagtastic to contemplate seriously - not to mention sort of pointless. Still for daily fare, I'm looking for the best nutrition I can manage.

To inaugurate my soaked baking experiments I decided to try Jenny's Fluffy Soaked Whole Wheat Biscuits only mine are decidedly non-lenten. Yes I know that it's advent but my family is much more likely to eat whole wheat anything made with lard and real buttermilk. If this bothers you, pray that the angel of vegan cooking is sent to visit all of us!  Not only did I fail to soak 8 hours (5 was my limit - people were hungry), I altered the recipe. They are good. Really good. I may not bother to cook supper.

2 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (I used a fresh ground mix of whole wheat, spelt, and kamut, sifted 4 times to remove the bran)
6 tablespoons non-hydrogenated lard and/or raw butter
3/4 cup of real buttermilk - or a similar quantity of milk with whey or yogurt and water
1 tablespoon lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Dump the flour into a medium size bowl. Using a pastry cutter, or a fork and knife with a cutting motion, cut in the palm oil or coconut oil into the flour. (or  use the food processor!) When the fat is the size of peas or smaller, you are done. Add the milky liquid, and mix in until just combined. Leave overnight at room temperature, well covered. This mixture will be wetter then your average biscuit recipe. This is so we can more easily mix in the salt and rising agents the next day.

Please go to Jenny's version for good pictures of the rest of the process. 

I need to find a good loaf that my kids will eat, which makes good packable sandwich and isn't sourdough (they hate it).

What the heck is interesterified oil and why is it in my tortillas?

I was in Fred Meyer last week picking up some things for school lunches & I needed tortillas for black bean and pumpkin burritos. There were no tortillas in the organic section but I frequently buy non-organic tortillas frozen at Costco so I headed to the 'regular' part of the store. I located the tortillas and began reading labels. Since our government refuses to allow the peons to decide for ourselves whether or not we want our corn genetically modified I had to assume that all the corn, corn meal and corn flour included was GMO.  There were the usual unfortunate cast of industrial food players- partially hydrogenated oil, additives, preservatives, artificial flavors, corn syrup solids - but then I noticed something new: interesterified oil. I didn't know what it was and I wasn't going to experiment on my kids without some serious research. I ended up finding some minimally acceptable tortilla's in the fridgie section (white flour, safflower oil, salt) and went with those. Still not great but handmade tortillas were not in the cards that night.

After a week of having my life go swirling into crazy land (Miss V leaving for a trip, school stuff, big auction, nutso acting out and drama, knitting a stripey elf hat for T2) I finally got time to sit down and read up on this stuff. Yuck. I think I'll pass, thanks. The last thing I need is a new frankenfat that raises blood glucose.

Here are several links on the subject. All more comprehensive than my description.


or here

or here

or maybe this one

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


This video, entitled "Stop Not Paying Attention to Things" is fantastic as it portrays how ridiculous we've all become about technology- until it gets to the part where it asserts that selling us another phone will rescue us from our phones! As they say in the commercial itself: really?

 Instead of one piece of overpriced technology 'rescuing' us from our previous overpriced pieces of technology, why don't we all just!!!! unplug, disconnect. When you sit down to a meal and you know that all the really core people in your life are safe and well, just turn off the ringer. Light a candle and breathe.  Talk to each other, Make something, sing something.

I'm thinking about my internet use (too much) and that advent is a perfect time to unplug, slow down, and draw the whole family inward. The question is: how much do I need to maintain the blog, volunteer commitments, and things like banking and bill pay & how much is mindless entertainment? I guess we'll find out. An hour a day?

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Feast of St Martin

Today I went in to school & took a friend to see the place and to be present in T1's class as they got to light their lanterns, eat their traditional breads, and sing the songs of the feast of St Martin. This was a part of their German language and culture class& the other kids will get to do it later in the week. T2 has it tomorrow and I think SCS has it Wednesday.

The mom who had volunteered to bring the breads had a baking fail, something with which I am all too familiar of late, so I ran to Three Bears and bought 28 mini-Danishes. They certainly weren't the traditional pretzel or goose shaped breads but they made children happy and hey: Denmark is next to Germany. I briefly contemplated croissants instead (St Martin was technically French) but they were more expensive and I knew the kids wouldn't like them nearly as well. Everyone left happy.

Since I have had recent experience with total baking disaster, I resolved to not dally in making the breads for T2s class tomorrow. If I were to totally mess up I thought I should at least have enough time to go to the store. Miss V assembled the dough for me while I took T1 to our friendly neighborhood wood working priest for some help finishing the birthday present Mom had messed up (and Fr. C assured me that the nails in the kit were just way too big and it wasn't really me. I think he was just being nice but I'll take it!) She used the recipe for Finnish Pulla in Baking with Julia and it worked beautifully and tastes lovely. Recipe at the bottom.
Each class gets their own little celebration as part of their German class. They have all made lanterns, learned some songs, and heard stories about both the man and the traditions. But they were not going to get the full experience of walking in a group with their lanterns on a cold evening with the fellowship of family, friends and neighbors. Then some brilliant person had the idea that we could hold a completely optional event outside of school so that anyone who wanted to do it, could. Wednesday evening as dark falls a group will walk a path lit by luminaries into the woods by Finger Lake. Children will carry the lanterns they made and sing the songs they learned and we will end at a bonfire where the story of the life of St Martin will be told. I'm super, duper excited.

The recipe follows. I shamelessly copied and pasted the recipe that  Kellypea at Sass & Veracity painstakingly typed in. She has pictures of the process and video so check out her post for helpful tips. You'll notice that my braid is just a touch lumpy looking. After I cut out the geese I took all the scraps, smooshed them together and made the ropes for the braid of that.Normally it would be all smooth and pretty but I needed geese ! Also, the 24 small geese and 1 large loaf are the result of a doubled recipe. I sprinkled the geese with sugar (Dehyrdrated cane syrup crystals) after the egg wash and their eyes are currants. I found that poking the currants in with the tip of the knife gave the little goosy faces a less deformed look.
Finnish Pulla from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

1 c. milk
1 T active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. crushed cardamom seeds (about 7 pods)
1 tsp. salt
2 lg. eggs, slightly beaten, at room temp
4-1/2 to 5 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
4 oz. unsalted butter, melted
1 lg. egg beaten with 1 T milk, for glaze

  1. Heat milk in a small saucepan until small bubbles are visible around the rim of the pan.  Remove from head and let cool to between 105 and 115 degrees F.
  2. In the large bowl of your Kitchen Aid, whisk yeast into the warm water and let sit for about 5 minutes or until yeast is dissolved and creamy.
  3. Whisk in milk, sugar, cardamom, salt, and eggs at medium speed.
  4. Switch to the hook attachment and add 2 c. flour, beating until smooth, occasionally scraping around the bowl to incorporate all the flour.
  5. Add the melted butter, and then keeping count as you go, add flour 1/2 c. at a time until the dough is stiff, but not dry.  (My dough took 4-1/2 c. flour)
  6. Cover and let the dough rest for about 15 minutes before proceeding.
  7. To knead the dough, either use your machine on medium speed until dough is satiny -- OR -- turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until it is smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes.
  8. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl making sure the top is oiled.  Cover with plastic and let rise at room temp until doubled in bulk -- about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  9. After dough is done with the first rise, line a baking pan at least 14 " long with parchment.  Then oil a work surface.  The surface should be cool.
  10. To shape the dough, turn it out of the bowl and briefly knead it to deflate it.  Divide it into 3 pieces and roll each piece into a rope about 36 inches long.  Braid the three ropes pressing the ends together and tucking them under the loaf.  Lift the braid onto the parchment.
  11. Cover the braid lightly with plastic that has been lightly oiled or with a kitchen towel.  Let rise at room temp until puffy, but not doubled about 45 minutes.
  12. Brush egg glaze over the bread.
  13. Bake the bread in a preheated 375 degree F oven on the center rack for about 20 to 25 minutes until golden.  Let cool on a rack until room temp.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Rolls - updated with pictures!

Some of you may have noticed my obsession with pumpkin rolls. I start thinking about them in August and if I weren't too lazy to bake every other day, I would happily eat them for breakfast 3 or 4 times a week.

Sunday is T1's birthday so today he needed birthday celebration treats for school. The last birthday child had brought blueberry muffins and,the school being a sort of crunchy health food kind of a place where we're asked to bring treats that don't sugar them up too much, I was thinking pumpkin muffins. Matthew requested pumpkin rolls instead.

My last batch were done with fresh ground whole wheat flour and the texture was not nice. It would have been better if I'd sifted a few times but still- grainier than I wanted. I also have concluded that I don't like powdered sugar. It tastes like chlorine to me. So this time I tweaked the recipe and am really pleased with the results. When you look at the picture, you see some slices at the top of the platter are much prettier than the rest. Those are the ones from the frozen roll of the previous batch. If you freeze these and slice them frozen they will be much, much prettier.

In a small bowl, combine: 
1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
In your mixer bowl, beat together until fluffy
 6 eggs
2 cups succanat or organic cane sugar crystals
then add
1 small can organic pumpkin
1-2 teaspoons of vanilla

then mix in the dry ingredients until just well combined

Line two jelly roll pans (the big cookie sheets with a side on them) with waxed paper or very well greased and floured parchment paper. Pour the batter in and spread it evenly then bake about 15 minutes.

When the cakes are done, pull them out of the oven and quickly turn them onto either a lightly floured tea towel or another sheet of waxed paper and roll them up, towel/paper and all. Cool completely on a rack before unrolling to fill.


Whip together in the mixer bowl that you washed while the cake part was baking:

3 8 oz packages of cream cheese
1/2 lb of butter
1 cup succanat or cane sugar crystals
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour cream

unroll the cakes, spread frosting and re-roll without the paper or towel. Cut off the ends to make it look prettier and eat the 'defective' end slices with a cup of tea for the baker!

These freeze beautifully. I should do several more for an emergency coffee hour stash but we always seem to eat them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The FDA did not approve this post

Lord Love a Duck!!!! In the whirling craziness of an Alaskan summer, I thought "Well, I'll spend a lot of time sitting and relaxing in the winter". What was I smoking? There are kid's projects, performances, wants, need and trips; Christmas gifts that need to be done; teenager sewing projects that turn out to need more mom help because she chose the fabric specially knit by the devil himself to make a saint swear.

In addition to making progress on the cute purple dress of the fabric of eternal despair, I also managed to make butter today. This isn't terribly unusual or difficult but, for a change, I remembered to weigh it all so that I could figure out how it compares in price to the organic or Kerry Gold butter from Costco. There was a nagging worry in the back of my head that I might be making the world's most expensive butter. Every few weeks, I get a gallon of cream from my cow share and just make it all into butter. At $16 a gallon, that's some expensive butter for just a pound or so.

Fortunately, I found today that my gallon of cream produces the equivalent of 3 boxes of Kerry Gold (3 8 oz bricks per box = 4.5 lbs total) plus 1/2 gallon of buttermilk So $16 of cream made me $24 worth of butter plus buttermilk. It's nice when better nutrition costs less! When we lived outside I met a guy who was selling contraband blackmarket raw butter for $10 per 8 oz container- and selling out every week. Bless him- it warms the cockles of my cranky little Libertarian heart. All that free enterprise and free choice and personal responsibility and farmers making a decent living without a subsidy in sight!

To make butter:

I use my Kitchenaid and break the gallon into 3 batches. You need your mixer bowl, a big bowl to drain the buttermilk into and a bigger bowl to wash the butter; the whisk attachment for the mixer; a mesh strainer; salt; paper towels or good, clean, fine linen; parchment paper.

pour about 1/3 of a gallon of the cream into your mixer bowl with the whisk attachment. Turn it on to about 7 and let it run. First you will have whipped cream. Let it keep going past the whipped cream stage until it breaks and separates into clumps of butter and liquid. Pour the contents of the mixer bowl into the strainer with another bowl underneath. The stuff that runs into the bowl is buttermilk. The butter solids now in the strainer need to be 'washed'. Dump them into your bigger bowl and run cold water over it and swish/squish the butter around in the water . Pour it all back into the strainer.

Next take the butter out of the strainer and squeeze it to push the water out of the fat. A last squeeze in a paper towel pulls out more. When you've got all the water out that you can get, salt your butter lightly and roll it into a log and wrap in parchment paper.

Repeat this process with the other 2/3s of the cream. I put two of my logs of butter into a gallon ziploc bag and keep them in the freezer, the third goes into the fridge for use.

If I had hogs or chickens to feed scraps, I would add my butter rinse water to the scraps to really milk every calorie and nutrient out of the cream I buy. Sigh. Soon. Hopefully this time next year instead of complaining about having to plow myself I'll be complaining about having to feed and water in the snow. And a few years past that I'll have been forced to find something new about which to whine since my beautiful New England style barn will be attached to the house, saving me from ever needing to get my dainty little feet snowy.