The photos of my out and about yesterday in D.C. are posted on my tumblr account. If you would like to see the photos, please follow the link!
There is nothing quite as satisfying as the smell of bread baking, especially if it is pushing its way up from the floor of your own oven. Don’t get me wrong, smelling it bake anywhere is a treat, but it is extra nice when that delicious aroma is making its way through your own domain.
I lived in Germany with my family for six years and traveled Europe extensively. For lots of folks, it is the architecture, the history, the ambiance that takes them to Europe along with their checklist of things to do and see. For me, it was the bakery and the loaf that was particular to that region.
I got to be intimate with lots of different loaves in lots of different countries. (And yes, bread for me is a very sensual experience. From the sonblummen brot (sunflower seed bread) in Germany to the white, refined flour loaf that was baked around a sausage in what was then Yugoslavia on the isle of Krk, was all very tasty. And I am still trying to reproduce the bread that we had in Turkey…(Before we left for the Middle East I did my homework…What to eat, make sure you tried and to stay away from and when researching bread, lots of recipes were found and I could not wait to taste them.) While seated at Rose’s Cafe I asked our waiter what type of bread it was.
The man looked at me like I was one of those crazy American’s he had heard so much about and simply replied, “Madam, bread is bread.”
And actually, not really. As I have scoured through many Middle Eastern recipe books and still have not found one like we had that day. Oh well…..
Bread, the staff of life, the stuff of love…love, you say?
Yes, indeedy…my very own husband came to me by the way of my bread cookbook. I can still see him standing in the kitchen of the apartment of where I lived in graduate school and him picking up the bread cookbook and saying,
“Whose is this?”
“Mine,” I replied and so a friendship-relationship became one of courtship. On his checklist of things he wanted in a wife was that she had to know how to make bread. And by golly, I could do that, even then. And still do today.
In a kitchen at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, my baby girl, just nine months old and walking but not quite yet talking would come and get me when the bread was just about done in the oven. She had the nose for bread, even then. She would come running into where ever I was and would take my hand and we would hurry off to the kitchen where she would point at the oven and make “excited sounds” until I would show her on the timer that we had to wait until the “ding” sounded. Together we would prep for the bread to be done. We would set her little table with bread plates and a little jam and butter on each plate and wait. As she grew older, this evolved into a child’s tea and perhaps a hardboiled egg would be added along with hot chocolate or a child’s tea, which was more milk than the bolder stuff that mom was drinking.
All wonderful memories associated with something as basic as a human sustenance. A very small something that I was able to give to those that fed my heart.
And now, lots of years and loaves later, I have a bread machine and a mixer with a dough hook and still pretty good use of my own two hands that help me make yet another loaf of bread.
And this particular loaf is very tasty, indeed. I started out trying to recreate the loaf served at The Macaroni Grill and I like to think I came pretty close.
2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat
1/4 cup rye
1/4 cup oats
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup water (follow your yeast directions for the water temp) if you want a less crispy loaf, substitute 1/4 cup olive oil for 1/4 cup water. (Also, you may require a bit more water. The dough should be soft like a baby’s butt.)
1 TB sugar
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped (can’t find fresh, use dried)
1 TB yeast
Combine sugar and warm water. Check to set that it proofs. Add salt, flours, oats. Mix. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead ten minutes, mixing in the rosemary. Shape into an oblong loaf and place on a baking sheet(the one I use is stone ware) using a sharp knife, slash the top about 1/4 inch deep in about 3-4 different places. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for about 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. (If I have a lot going on, I use the dough cycle on my bread machine. Follow the manufacturers directions for loading the ingredients into the machine, adding the rosemary about 15 minutes into the kneading process. Once again, check your bread machine book, it will tell you when to add follow on ingredients.) Then follow the directions for slashing/ rising/baking.
Preheat oven to 350. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack. Remove and coat with olive oil.
Beetnik Cake….Oh-h-h, the Things Our Moms Never Told Us
Editor’s Note: This recipe is from my gorgeous bombshell neighbor Teresa, another Oklahoma gal, although not by birth. She comes to us by way of Billings, Montana, a place that knows about cold weather because there is only one or two pieces of barbed wire between them and that arctic wind.
For those of you who remember this cake, the truth is now out. And I always thought I was being so cool man, eating this cake. After all, it was a Beatnik cake…..uhhh-huh.
Here is another recipe from Oklahoma and served at the Putnam City school districts’ cafeterias:
1/2 c. Hershey’s baking cocoa (or other favorite chocolate)
2 t. vanilla
1 c. cooking oil
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. ground canned beets and juice (consistency of applesauce)
3 eggs, well beaten
· Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
· Combine cocoa, vanilla and oil; mix thoroughly
· Sift flour, sugar, soda and salt together, and add to cocoa mixture.
· Grind beets, or process in blender, before measuring. Blender is fastest.
· Add beets and eggs to batter mixture
· Pour into greased and floured 10” x 14” pan.
· Bake 25 to 30 minutes
· Frost with your favorite chocolate icing.
No wonder the cafeteria ladies were smiling when this was served. The cake is moist and delicious; however, they were sneaking VEGETABLES into our meals and we hadn’t a clue!
Editor’s Note: And it just wasn’t our meals, it was dessert!
Teresa goes on to say that “My own mother was one of the cafeteria sneaks for 10 years at an elementary school down the street from her own home. She didn’t tell me what was in the cake until after I’d graduated from Putnam West.”
Sneaking…well yes….my own mother had done some time as a cafeteria cook in the Jenks public school system….and she never exposed this secret to me. It was one she took blissfully to her grave.
I came home from a girls-get-away to find the cutest little white bowl sitting in my fridge…
“H-m-m-m-m,” I wondered, “what is this?”
And then I lifted the wrap and took a deep whiff and “h-m-m-m” went to “m-m-m-m-m-m” and then in went my finger and snagged some of the mysterious contents and “mmmmm-mm” went to “damn!!! that is good!”
Once again my gorgeous, bombshell neighbor Teresa had struck! And this time she left behind a blend of delightful flavors that was very tasty cold….and then I heated it up and “yawzaaaaa, fau-u-lous hot!”
I emptied the bowl and returned it to her. Not being coy, I asked for the recipe.
Being the wonderful lady that she is, she zipped it right back to me….God’s blessings upon you my child…and so it appears here.
A friend of hers from Oklahoma sent it to her and so I think perhaps it needs to be re-titled just a bit to honor these wonderful women from that state who not only share their recipes but their hearts as well…who could take something so humble as tomatoes (and the world at one time thought they were poisonous) and carrots (a lowly root vegetable that has no unpronounceable pedigree name) and serve this sublime soup. And since curry is now thought to be of benefit to Alzheimer’s patients, have this often and perhaps curry it on up a bit more…..
More than OK Tomato/Carrot Soup
2 T. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
½ – ¾ lb carrots, sliced
1 t. curry powder
2 T. basil
2 large cans whole tomatoes, without the juice
3 ½ C. (2 cans) chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
In a stockpot sauté the onions in butter. Add carrots, ½ (1 can) of broth, tomatoes and spices. Cook until tender (approx 30-45 min). Pour into blender and puree until smooth, about 1 minute. It usually takes 3 batches to puree all of it. Return the soup to the stockpot and add remaining ½ (1 can) of broth. Heat through.
Yesterday it was snowing in the Nation’s Capitol. Yes, flowers are blooming and there are tiny bits of Heaven being blown past our windows with gale force winds. Maybe that is what brought about the change in perspective. Maybe…
We were sitting at the island in the kitchen watching the snow and dreaming about places to visit in Ireland when Bill pointed out the window.
Well….we had company…of sorts…
I grabbed the camera and started shooting through the window, hence the screen pattern on the photo…and the snow pattern…and yes, if you look to the left at the end of the rail, there is a hawk pattern on those feathers with a squirrel pattern to the right end of the rail.
If you will please: In the flower boxes are pansies that have gone to seed. I leave them there each winter for the birds and even the squirrels to come by and nibble on. Even with the bird feeders, these flower boxes are a very popular place to stop by and have a snack.
And both the hunter and the hunted had stopped by…
It was humorous to watch. The squirrel advanced on the hawk several times and then would back up…clearly, he wanted the seeds from that flower box. (There are seven more flower boxes just like that one. But these squirrels…they are not your ordinary cute rodents. One day, when I was looking out the window, there sat one staring back at me with a white rock clutched in his paws, chattering at me about the consequences of not keeping the feeder, filled. One morning, one went kamikaze on me and jumped onto the kitchen window screen yelling Jihad! Believe me, I have seen squirrels with attitude.
Now, I was standing there snapping away and wondering why Mr. Hawk was not having seed fed squirrel for dinner. (When the hawk flew off, he had a mouse or something a whole lot like that in his claws. I could understand his position. Take coffee with me or hope that the traffic gods are playing nicely and that I have enough time to stop at Starbucks and buy a cup.)
Mr. Hawk decided to hedge his bets. I have done the same most mornings. Plus, he could see me moving around through the window. So it became a matter of going with a sure thing as opposed to letting it go and chasing the squirrel who could jump into the trees and nobody gets a tasty treat.
Now, Bill and I both pondered over who do you have to piss off in the squirrel scheme of things to get sent out to tell the hawk to cease and desist? Or maybe Mr. Squirrel, he really did think he was all that…cute rodent with great PR.
We all need to take a lesson, here. Some days, the hawk does win…and just because you are cute with good PR does not mean squat.
So remember: ALWAYS! SAFETY FIRST!