Wednesday, November 27, 2013

French Bread

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I got this recipe awhile back from Heidi, who got it from her sister-in-law, who got it from her mom. It's tasty, crusty on the outside, and soft and perfect on the inside. Also, I learned this Halloween that if you portion the bread into four bread-bowl shaped mounds, they will turn into four bread bowls for Halloween (or just every day) soup.  Bonus!

Here's the recipe:

French Bread

Combine all ingredients (except flour) in your bowl (or Kitchen Aid bowl) and mix:
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. oil
1 T. yeast

3 to 4 Cups Flour 

Mix until the dough is smooth. Then let it rise for 1 hour. During that hour punch the dough down every 10 minutes.

After an hour, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle shape and then roll up like a cinnamon roll (don't be afraid to use more flour here). Place on a greased cookie sheet. Slit the top with a sharp knife. Rub your loaf with egg white; let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes (golden brown). Great for French toast, too!

The crust is nice and crunchy and the inside is moist and yummy. Enjoy your bread.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Lions-A jaunt to Illinois, and then back to China

We have a new USoSL member!!

A bit ago, I found a treat in my in-box left to me by my cousin Juliana.  Juliana is the second daughter of my oldest aunt, and as such has been someone I watched for years with the fascination that only a younger cousin can have with a more "grown up" cousin. Getting older equalizes things somewhat, and now instead of me being an awkward shy teenager and her being a classy brilliant newlywed, we are both adults, wives, mothers, professionals, and a bunch of other stuff, putting us on more equal footing generally. It's great of course, but-I'm not gonna lie, feels a little weird sometimes.  Kind of like when I go to lunch with my Aunt Liz, you know? I mean--this woman (Liz, not Juliana) fed me spaghettios and root beer floats when I was six, and now we're chatting like old girlfriends over Diet Cokes and salad? Weird. (Weird, but wonderful.)

Anyway, enough of that random tangent, and on to the treat!

Here's what Juliana has to say about this lion:

I've lived in this town for over four years now, shopping at this hardware store from time to time, and it took me until today to register the fact that there is a stone lion out front. Not as picturesque as Paris or China or San Francisco, but hey, even small Midwestern towns have to have a touch of class. So here you have it, the resident stone lion at the Ace Hardware store in Chatham, Illinois. I think he's quite regal, don't you?

 Yes. Yes, I do think he's quite regal. 
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Next we have several offerings from our China correspondent, Cherie:

I love how this one has a stone elephant alongside the stone lion.That's 'cuz I'm a sucker for stone animals in general I guess.

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Lion at Qixia Mountain Scenic Spot, Qixia China

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Huge Lion at the Nanjing Nan (south) railway station, in Nanjing, China

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Did you know there was a "Lion Gate Bridge Road" in China?  There is.  This lion was found there.
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And this is the Lion Bridge in Nanjing

This is in front of a restaurant in Nanjing

This guy is on a roof, somewhere in China.

Someday, when I have more spare time than I do now, I may actually sit down and count all the lions that are in the USoSL collection. I'm pretty sure it's quite an impressive number, which honestly, is probably why I'll need to wait until I have MUCH more spare time than I do right now. A small price to pay. Keep 'em coming!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

AppleFest 2013

A few weeks ago (around the time we were trying our hand at caramel apples), I was talking to my dad on the phone. I asked him what he was up to, and he said, "Apples. I'm up to my ears in apples." He then proceeded to tell me about the tree by their house that was loaded with apples, and then the tree on the property that he inherited from my grandparents that was loaded with apples.  I told him he should try the caramel apple recipe that I had discovered. He agreed that they would try it. I have no idea whether or not they actually did.

I did remark that I was bummed that we weren't living closer together, because I am always up for mooching fruits and/or vegetables off of other peoples trees and out of other people's gardens.  Dad said that he was bummed as well. He honestly sounded a little bit at his wit's end as to what he might do with all those apples.

As it turned out, we ended up meeting in Utah County a week or so later for a family funeral. (I'll be writing more about this later). Realizing that we'd be seeing each other, I called my parents up and asked them to bring me up a bunch of apples, and did they ever! They filled a 5 gallon tote up to the brim with apples, in fact.

(As I was supervising the transfer of that tote from my parents' car to mine, Doug (that brilliant wit) remarked to me, with a smirky smile on his face, "How do you like them apples, Char??"  Have I mentioned how much I love having that guy back in the neighborhood?)

So anyway, that was just a long way to say that we had a whole bunch of apples, and we used them in many varied ways.  Here are a few of them:

We followed these instructions for apple chips, but we didn't really love the results. They were fine, but nothing to write home about really.
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We then froze some apple pie filling, using this recipe (but we only used about 6 cups of water, rather than the 10 it called for). We haven't eaten it yet, so who knows how good it will be, but I have high hopes. I'm not a huge fan of apple pie, but Thanksgiving is coming, so we'll probably have some then. I AM a big fan of apple crisp, so we'll be using this throughout the year for that.
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We dried a bunch of apples using the dehydrator. We love them this way. All the apples I dried have already been eaten-that's how much we love them.
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And finally, we made apple cake. So dang yummy.  You are going to be glad that you have this recipe, so here it is. (A note--don't skip the nuts, they make the meal.  We use almonds--whole almonds that I run through the food processor for about 10 seconds to chop them a bit. Tasty.)
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Apple Streusel Muffins/Cake

(I got this recipe from my sister, Becca.  We don't do the muffins because every time I try I fill the muffin cups too full, and then they spill over and burn and I get irritated that I spent all that time peeling and chopping apples just to have a bunch of sub-par muffins. Becca has success with the muffins though, and they are yummy, if you feel confident enough to make them. Anyway, for the cake instructions, skip to the second to the last paragraph of the instructions.)

1 c light brown sugar
1 c chopped apples
1 c sliced almonds, pecans, or walnuts (optional)(But not REALLY optional. Add them--you'll be glad you did.)
¼ c flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 TBS butter, melted

2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup butter (softened)
½ c sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c orange juice

FOR THE GLAZE (if making as a cake)
½ cup powdered sugar
2 ½ tsp orange juice

Preheat oven to 350.  To prepare streusel, in a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, apples, almonds, flour and cinnamon.  Stir in melted butter.  To prepare cake, in a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and soda; mix well.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time; beat well after each addition.  Add vanilla.  Set mixer to low, alternately beat flour mixture and orange juice into egg mixture. 

Alternate layers of batter and streusel mixture in a greased muffin tin (DON’T OVERFILL!), finishing with a sprinkling of streusel mixture.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

To make cake instead of muffins, Spoon half batter into bundt pan.  Sprinkle with half of streusel.  Spoon the remaining batter over the streusel, spreading to make an even layer.  Swirl batter with a knife to create a marble pattern. 

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove cake from oven, sprinkle top with remaining streusel.  Return cake to the oven; bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack; cool completely.  Turn cake out onto a serving plate, then drizzle with mixture of powdered sugar and juice.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Honey Taffy

Have you noticed that this blog has been getting even more random than usual lately?

Like, it's basically a bunch of recipes, with lions thrown in from time to time, and then an occasional travelogue, random picture, or deep thought by Charlotte?

There's a reason for that. The thing is, I've become less comfortable having so many pictures of my daughter and details about her in such a public place, and so I've been putting nearly everything that involves her at all over on a private blog that I created for that purpose. So, things are quieter over here, and that's by design. 

Just in case you were wondering.

* * *

A bit ago, on a rare empty Sunday afternoon, I was looking through my cookbook, and I chanced by an old recipe for Honey Taffy that my grandma had, and that my family would make from time to time in my childhood. Having recently conquered my fear of candy thermometers, I decided to give it a try (Eric was taking a well-deserved afternoon nap at the time).

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Honey Taffy- my grandma's recipe

(we halved this recipe, since our pulling horsepower was limited to one mom and one kid)

2 cups sugar
1 cup honey

Mix together and cook to a crack stage when dropped in cold water.  Pour into buttered platter and cool until cool enough to handle. (when I do this next time, I'm going to use my silpat on a cookie sheet. I've read numerous places that it will keep the candy from sticking). Take a handful of taffy in buttered hands, and pull until light in color.  When cool, cut with scissors (I just whack them with the back of a table knife)  into desired pieces. Wrap up in buttered wax paper, and store in an air-tight container.

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See that dark piece back there? That's essentially the color the taffy is before it's pulled. We didn't pull that one fast enough, and it got too cold before we could get it to that pretty light color. It still tastes good, but has a little bit of a different texture to it.
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Now, these are not your basic chewy candies. They are more like hard candies, with a little bit of give to them. Also (and this is CRITICAL), you do NOT want to chew on these, as they will almost certainly pull out any fillings you may have. However, for general sucking, these are tasty, and as I (sadly) recently discovered, they also make very soothing lozenges (all that honey you know) when you have a sore throat.

My grandma also had a recipe for Vinegar Taffy that we made in my childhood. I'm thinking we'll maybe try that next. It doesn't sound all that great, but as I remember, it was pretty yummy as well, and as we learned this time, pulling taffy is a fun family activity.

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Monday, November 04, 2013

Notes on the Garden for next year-another post that's more for me than for you

Here's my plan for next year:

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In words:

  • By the bay window: early girls by the door, sweet 100s in front of the window, sungolds by the drain pipe.
  • In the square foot garden: early girls all along the back two rows, green onions and anaheim peppers in the second row from the front, spinach on the front row.
  • In the containers: raspberries and/or tomatoes (early girls)
  • In the spice box: basil, mint, one sprig catnip
  • along the white fence: zucchini 

A few things I need to remember:
  • Spinach,  and Green Onions can be planted towards the end of March under Row Covers.
  • Plant Zucchini, Tomatoes, Herbs, etc. Memorial Day Weekend.
  • This year green onions and tomatoes did super well. The rest of it didn't do so well. Look into fertilizer, composting, etc to build up the soil there. Strawberry plants grew and grew, but produced very little fruit. 
  • We had waaaaay too much catnip and not nearly enough mint.
And now, here a little motivation (for me) for next year:

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Friday, November 01, 2013

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