January 31, 2011

Cribbage and Cheesecake

This past summer, while in the open ranch land somewhere on the Colorado/Wyoming border, our children were introduced to the game of cribbage by one of our church members. His name is Rich.

The children love playing cribbage. It's a great game to reinforce math skills as well. So, ever since then, Rich and his father Bob, have come over every so often to our house to play cribbage.



Sam has become quite the cribbage master. He has even been known to beat Bob once in a while at the game. That doesn't happen too often for anyone because Bob has been playing this game for over 80 years!


Of course, every once in a while, Sam tries to count more points than he actually has. But, Rich is always quick to correct him.


Usually, when they come over, Rich will make us supper. He brings the main dish and we just have to provide the bread or salad and dessert. He is a tremendous cook. I have told him that he should have his own cooking show, because he has lots of personality as well.


On this particular evening, we were celebrating Rich's birthday. The boys, wanting to do something nice for Rich, decided to bake him a cheesecake. He likes cheesecake. (Seriously, who doesn't?)

I am a terrible cheesecake maker. I've only tried once, early in my cooking career, to make this dessert. It failed miserably. I've never tried since. So....the boys were in charge of this. And, I have to admit, I had doubts. Especially when I would overhear the conversation in the kitchen, "Dad, did you remember to put this ingredient in?" or "What did we do with the egg yolks? Did we throw them away?" or "Can we dig egg yolks out of the trash can?" ...

The only advice that I, the horrible cheesecake maker could give, was "Call your mom or your sister." After all, they are the cheesecake makers in the family. And, we were using Adrian's sister's recipe. Her cheesecake is to die for. So, the call was put out and I was left to hope that the boys could prove me wrong and have their dessert turn out okay.

This is what it looked like when they were done. It was beautiful. I was shocked. Really, really shocked! And happy. I now have cheesecake makers in the house! Yay!


Happy birthday Rich! We won't tell anyone how old you are....

Of course, a birthday in our house can't be truly celebrated until we sing "Happy Birthday" to them and add our own little rendition of "He's a Jolly Good Fellow"....


Doesn't it look wonderful? Aren't you hungry for cheesecake now? I am anxious for the boys to try this recipe again. And again. And again.





Andrea's Famous Cheesecake

Crust:
18 graham crackers, rolled fine
2 T. butter
2 T. sugar

Filling:
1 cup sugar
2 T. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs, separated
1 lb. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream

           Blend, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl. Beat 4 egg whites until stiff and set aside. Add cream cheese to large bowl and blend. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and mix well. Add vanilla and sour cream and blend well. Fold in egg whites. Pour into springform pan and bake 1 hour at 325 degrees. Cool well before removing from pan. Refrigerate. Glaze with cherry pie filling or desired fruit filling. 

January 28, 2011

cre·ate [kree-eyt]
verb, -at·ed, -at·ing, adjective

to evolve from one's own thought or imagination, as a work of art or an invention.


One of my dear friends is swollen with child. Friends gathered with her a few weeks ago to celebrate that time honored tradition of eating cake, playing silly little games, exchanging labor and birth stories, and, of course, watching the soon-to-be mother open all those carefully wrapped gifts filled with exquisite little things for the new baby. 

It's been a while since I've shopped the infant section in the stores. You know, after a few kids, you basically have everything you need and you tend to stop going past the baby sections because your house is already busting at the seams with stuff. However, there are some pretty neat baby items that are new to me. Do I need them? no. But, are they super cool gifts for an expectant mom? YES! 
Here was one of my favorite, neat baby items that I was just made aware of.
Isn't it interesting? It's a bottle dryer that looks like blades of grass. I thought it was fun. You can check it out at Amazon.com Boon Grass Drying Rack I am thinking about just getting one to dry my dishes on. I even think it might work for canning jars!


Under pressure to think of a nice baby gift, I finally decided to try and make a handmade gift. I have a sewing machine that basically collects dust. I figured it was high time to get that baby out and do something with it. The challenge was to come up with a gift that I was actually capable of sewing and also being able to get the project done in time. I decided to make a hooded blanket.
I will spare you the details for the time being, but it really turned out pretty great. I even think I'm going to try and make some more of them. Especially since there are at least half a dozen pregnant ladies that I know of right now.


This is what I came up with. I found a pattern on another blog, tweaked it a little, and it turned out really great! See that baby chick on the hood? I designed that and appliqued it all by myself. Amazingly, it looks okay!



So, I then attempted another hooded towel. This time my inspiration came from Maggie, our princess. This one turned out okay as well. I didn't especially enjoy working with binding, but I think the more I play around with it the better I will get.

This is where my creative talent ends for the week. I have a party to plan for and a much needed hair appointment to get to. Have a good weekend!!!

January 27, 2011

My Danish Love

Of course, I'm talking about food. I'm sure that you all knew that.

I thank the Scandinavian folk who brought pastries to the United States with all of my heart. And, from the bottom of my stomach.

There is a little bakery, just a mile or so away from us, that serves the most delish Danish pastries that I've ever eaten. It's appropriately named, The Danish Bakery.

From the outside, it doesn't look like much of a place. You know, just a regular square, white building with red trim and nothing fancy. But, once you enter through the door, you have sensory overload. The smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the room greets you. The glass display shelves, filled with every type of mouth-watering morsel you could ever dream of, are there for your eyes to devour. The touch of the flaky pastry and sugary topping. The sound of crunchy, toasted almonds in your mouth. Then, there is the taste. Oh... the taste. The sweet, delicate pastry melting in your mouth and the rich, creamy tartness of the fruit. (pardon me, I think I just drooled on the keyboard).






One of these days I am going to learn the secret of making these Danish pieces of perfection. And, when that happens, I'll probably never be able to button my pants again.

January 26, 2011

Super Saver

Yesterday, I opened myself up to a whole new world of grocery shopping.

I became a couponer.

Yep, that's right. A couponer. "Just exactly what is a couponer?", you may ask.
Here is my personal definition.

couponer (noun): a person, or thing, who scours the Sunday newspaper for the coupon sections, then religiously cuts each one out, only to then spend hours on the Internet at various coupon sites to find certain products and print the coupons out. Afterwards, this person (or thing) diligently researches the area grocery store ads to search for the aforementioned products, only to then make a spreadsheet and power point presentation of what items to buy at which store, in order to stretch every George Washington bill to the extreme until he starts to bleed and beg for mercy. 

 Okay, I may have embellished a little bit. I didn't actually make a power point presentation. But you get the gist of what I'm saying, right? So, let's get right to the story.

     It all began in the most inconspicuous of places... Super Wal-Mart. (This was my first mistake). I had several accomplices. Seven of them, to be precise. (This was mistake number two). We grabbed a vacant cart from the parking lot, loaded the babies inside, and took off for the entry.
     Now, I have no ill feelings toward Wal-Mart. I have family members who work there and I shop there all the time. But, so does everyone else! This Super Wal-Mart was packed to the gills with people. They were everywhere. I should have noted this and turned around immediately. But I couldn't do it. I had, after all, put lots and lots of time into making these grocery lists. They were color coded. Not to mention that certain coupons were ready to expire. And, that's just like throwing money away, I told myself. Plus, I had them strategically aligned in my binder to use at this very moment. No. We had to do the job. It was go time.
     I pushed the cart, confidently, down aisle after aisle. We were doing good. I was finding every item I was looking for. Things were getting checked off the list. Then, we hit the pet aisle where the fish were. Children clamored to stop and see them. Okay, okay... just for a minute or so though, because we still have shopping to do. Ten minutes later, we finally departed from the fish, with the beginning of a coup that I should have immediately squashed but didn't.
     We headed to the health and beauty department to get some toiletries. A debacle arose over fluoride rinse. People took sides and the rebels broke alliances. I was now dealing with two hostile parties. It was bound to get worse. Little did I know...
     All that was needed to successfully end our trip to Wally World was a tour of the laundry detergent aisle. We headed there, only to have one baby start screaming and two toddlers immediately declare that they needed to go potty. But the restrooms are all the way across the store, where we just were (and you know, in a Super Wal-Mart, that means it's half a mile away) and we are almost done. Can't you just hold it? Nope. Didn't work. So, thankfully, the eldest daughter, taking note of the predicament I was in, suggested that she take the toddlers... in exchange for a cereal of her choice. Fine, fine... I said. Those were the last words spoken peacefully by the couponer.
     "What?!?", various children started crying out. "Why does she get to have something?" and "I want XXX Sugary Cereal. I'll do any chore you want me to..." and "When are we going home" and "I have to go to the bathroom too" and so on and so forth. I'm not really sure I answered any of them. I just went to a quiet place in my head and focused on the chore at hand. I only had 3 more things to cross off this forsaken list and I was going to get it done.
     Dragging child A by the arm and child B by the ear, we headed out of the soap aisle, into the cereal aisle. Eldest daughter met us there, with toddlers in hand. She did her task well and was to be rewarded. I let her take a minute to decide. In the meantime, toddler 1 and 2 were busy opening boxes of cereal. This I did not realize until a man came up and asked me, "Are those your children?" My first response wanted to be, "Nope." But, I had to answer honestly and claim them. Needless to say, we ended up with 3 extra boxes of cereal in the cart with, (gasp!), no coupon to make them a super savings. 
     We exited the cereal aisle quickly after that and headed immediately to the check-out lane. The children unloaded the cart for me and we watched as the nice man checked all of the items. The bill was big. It was my moment to shine. I handed him my pile of coupons. The woman in line behind me let out a big sigh. She knew this would take a while. Or, maybe she was sighing because Toddler A and Toddler B were rolling on the floor. Whatever the case, I wasn't going to let her ruin my moment. "Beep, Beep, Beep" went the register as my bill went down, and down, and down. In total, I saved over $60 on my grocery bill with coupons. It was astounding. And, besides the cereal, there was nothing there that I wouldn't have ordinarily bought.  


The story had a happy ending. I saved a bunch of money. However, there are a few lessons to be learned here.
1. Don't take this lightly. To be a couponer, it takes time and energy. I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to talk myself into doing it again.

2. Don't do this with children. You'll want to pull every hair out of it's follicle and then gouge your eyes out. Go to the store alone.

3. If you do have to take children, don't forsake nap time to go. It will end in disaster.

4. If you just shop the sales, then casually look for coupons, you'll make this task a bit easier and not so daunting.

There you have it. My day in a nutshell.
The children were exhausted when we came home. Maggie couldn't even hold herself together to eat dinner.

January 25, 2011

Live! From Red Rocks...

Most everyone is familiar with Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado. So many bands have performed there, from The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones to U2 and Coldplay. I must admit, however,  that we have not attended a concert there yet. Perhaps it is because Sesame Street Live hasn't been on the venue ticket.

Regardless, we went to Red Rocks yesterday. Not for a concert, but to go on a hike. They have some great trails that are fairly easy, which is good because I'm totally out of shape.

This was the view at the beginning of our hike. This would have been a beautiful picture if it weren't for the fact that I had my fingerprint smudge on the lens.

Here we start, at the beginning of the trail head. It was a brisk, but sunny day. There was still a bit of snow on the trail in spots, but it was mostly dry.



(try to look past the smudge) I thought these rocks looked like giant heads. It's amazing how they don't just topple off and smash into smithereens.


(are you getting used to the giant smudge mark yet?) I don't know what this plant was, but I immediately thought of the first Christmas tree that Adrian and I helped decorate at Mahoney State Park.


Don't the children look teeny? That's because these rocks are HUGE! I think we were about halfway done with the hike at this point.




This is one of my favorite pictures (minus the fingerprint smudge). Sam is trying to enlighten Peter about the deep grooves in the rock. He is explaining in detail how they were probably left behind after the flood. Peter, on the other hand, is too busy trying to figure out how to keep his Spiderman stretch gloves on. Poor Sam. Guess he knows how I feel sometimes when I'm teaching school...


Do cactus bloom in winter? I have no idea. I did, however, dare Adrian to eat one of the blooms. He declined. I just thought it might be a chance for us to try out all those "survival skills" that Bear Grylls has taught us. Maybe next time....

Our hike was done and we were ready to take on more. So, we headed towards the amphitheater. It was all uphill. (cue charlie horses)

The city of Denver is located in the smudge mark. If you squint a little, you can kind of see it. We were almost to our destination... and I was out of breath.  


This is from the bottom of the amphitheater, looking up. All I can say is, climbing to the top of these stairs reminded me of that horrible, creepy work-out video from the 90's, "Buns of Steel". My thighs still cramp up at the mention of that  VHS tape.
There were, believe it or not, people running up those stairs! Unless I'm Rocky Balboa going against some super Russian boxer, I'm taking it one step at a time.


Did you notice Adrian and children in that last picture? They were there, at the top. Even when I zoomed in they looked little.


Finally, I made it to the top. There is the famous amphitheater. It was pretty cool. And fairly empty. Only a handful of tourists and people working out. Otherwise, the place was all to ourselves!


Adrian took us down the backside of the amphitheater. This was much easier than going up. It was a fun way to go down, even thought I'm not sure that we were supposed to be on that trail.


This was the backside of Red Rocks, when we were rolling down the trail. Beautiful, isn't it?

We will definitely be back for some more hiking. And, next time, I'll try not to smudge up my camera lens.

January 24, 2011

Giddy Up!

The National Western Stock Show comes to Denver every year. This was the 105th year that the show has come to town. Some call it the "Superbowl of Livestock Shows".... which is why it brings such a tremendous crowd of people each year.

The children love to go. Who am I kidding? I love to go! So does Adrian! It's just a fun atmosphere to be in. I think it reminds me of my parent's farm and my childhood. It reminds Adrian of his grandparents' farms and a piece of his childhood. It brings a little bit of country to the big city for a few weeks.

Adrian bought us tickets to the rodeo. Off we scurried in the van to take in a few of the exhibits before we settled into our seats for the show.

There were so many different types of things for sale. Lots and lots of cowboy boots and hats. Leather furniture. Belt buckles. Cattle chutes. But they had some neat wood carvings as well. This bear one was kind of scary.

There were also animals on exhibit, like this caged-in rooster. I was actually trying to take a picture of the rooster in the cage next to him, because he looked like "Wilson", a dearly beloved rooster in the family... but this guy demanded attention. So he got the photo shoot. Sorry Wilson. I'll try and get a picture for you next year.


There was a petting zoo for the children to explore and a carousel for the kids to ride on. A real carousel. They don't mess around with imitations at the Stock Show.


Before we knew it, it was time for the rodeo to start! We stood for the National Anthem. The Rodeo Queens came out to present colors. This was the Rodeo Queen from Colorado. Adrian and I think Susie could be a Rodeo Queen. After all, royalty is in her blood....

First up was Bronco Bustin'. This cowboy was bareback. He is crazy. I don't even know who he is, but after watching this event, I'm pretty sure he is crazy. They also had Bronco Bustin' with saddles. Not a safe activity to participate in.


There was bull riding as well. Just watching this bull gyrate and snort would make me quiver in my Justin boots if I were a cowboy.

There was some activity, don't remember what this is called, where one cowboy heads off the calf and the other cowboy jumps off his horse and tackles the calf. It was kind of intense.

Here is the cowboy getting that calf to lay down on the ground. There's more to it than it looks like, because about half of the cowboys failed in their attempts. I'm just glad my dad never made me do this on the farm. I would've been trampled.


There was also barrel racing, some other type of activity involving two cowboys, a calf and some rope and, of course, Mutton Bustin'. In case you've never heard of it before, it involves putting a young child (with a helmet on) on top of a lamb that's ready to take off like a rocket. You cheer as the little tyke tries to hang on for dear life. I think Peter would be a perfect candidate to participate in this show of young rodeo athleticism. He's tough, that little guy.

The funniest part of the night might have occurred when this calf refused to leave the middle of the ring. After being roped by a cowboy, he just dropped right down and gave up. I kind of felt sorry for the little fella.

He's not dead. He's just humiliated and forlorn. This went on for a little while. Some cowboys even brought out a stretcher to carry him off in. At that point, he finally decided to just get up and get out of that arena. Talk about a drama cow.

We all had a great time at the Stock Show. Of course, we would have loved it if Grandpa, Grandma and Caleb could have been with us again this year. Maybe next time?
If you are ever in Denver in early January, looking for something fun to do, you should definitely buy some tickets to the rodeo. I have yet to be disappointed.

January 18, 2011

Send in the Clowns

Well, Day 1 of "being productive" went okay. I finally managed to remove myself from the computer chair and tend to a few things around the house.

First things first, I ate that pesky chocolate marshmallow snowman who's been hanging around the kitchen since Christmas. It was time for him to go. Secondly, I was able to get all the laundry washed, folded and put away. (Not a small feat when you consider that I do laundry for 10 people). I fed the children, courtesy of King Soopers ready-made sub sandwiches, and put the littles down for naps. Then, the older four and I sat down for a few hours to hammer out some school assignments.

We've been in a little bit of a "funk" lately with school. First, my father's illness and death  disrupted normal school life. Then Christmas came. We kind of got used to being lazy. I decided, yesterday, that we were going to get back in the saddle and cowboy up. So, one of the children's last assignments for the day was to write a paragraph about a subject. Our grammar books suggest writing topics, which is sometimes helpful and other times just strange. Joanna's writing topic was.... "Why I Would/Would Not Like to Be a Circus Clown". Seriously? Who's coming up with this stuff? Regardless, we trudged on, not wanting to be slackers.

Joanna's essay turned out to be so amusing to me that I felt it just had to be published.


Why I Would Not Like to Be a Circus Clown  by Joanna Sherrill
     Being a circus clown would not be very fun. Although people may like being one, I would choose a different job. Circus clowns are laughed at by lots of people, they wear uncomfortable clothes and makeup, and they throw pies at each other.
     One of the reasons I would not like to be a circus clown is that they are laughed at by lots of people. In other jobs you might get laughed at by others, but when you are a clown you are getting laughed at by hundreds of people. The second reason is that when you are a circus clown, you have to wear really uncomfortable clothes and makeup. Unless you work at a movie studio or a very fancy restaurant, you usually don't have to wear lots of makeup and uncomfortable clothes. The third reason is that clowns are always throwing pies at each other. The pies would probably get stuck on your clothes and when you tried to wipe it away it would just smear your makeup, go down your shirt, or get caught in your wig. This would just make people laugh at you even more!
      These are the main reasons that I don't ever want to be a circus clown. If I had to be a clown, I guess I would choose to be a rodeo clown. They can do flips and be friends with cowboys.
                                                                    

The end.


Pretty convincing, huh? As a mother, I too, am hopeful that she doesn't grow up to be a circus clown. I've always been just a little creeped out by them......

Procrastination

Um, wait a minute. Or an hour. Or a day, week, month, year....

I am a terrible procrastinator. Why wait until tomorrow to do that which you can do today? Well, do I really need to list off the reasons why? I am organized, yet a total failure at getting things accomplished. All at the same time. Ironic, isn't it?

There are always better things to do than the chore that is at hand. Laundry or taking a walk? Dishes or sitting on the couch, snuggling next to someone. I don't even care if it is only the dog. I'll take the snuggling anytime over doing dishes. Cooking or take-out? Ugh. I think I've hit the January doldrums. I don't really feel like doing anything.

So, in an effort to pick myself up from this melting heap of inactivity, I'm going to get moving this week. I'm going to do something. Anything. I'll keep you posted on how I do. At the moment, I just need to work on getting out of this computer chair....

January 13, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Remember that Rye Bread recipe that I posted just a few days ago? Well, this little gem of a recipe also comes from my mother.
The children love raisins. You can give them raisins in anything or in any fashion and it's a treat. I'm not a big fan of raisins being baked in things. I think it has something to do with them "plumping up". I prefer them all wrinkled and chewy. But, even I enjoy this cinnamon raisin bread. So much so, that we finished two loaves of bread in one day.

Here we have the cinnamon raisin bread in it's bowl. Remember, let it rise, then punch it down, then let it rise again.... patience, patience.....
After it does all the rising, knocked down again, get back up stuff you are ready for the next step.


Now you divide the dough in half and roll each part out into a 9x12 rectangle. I don't know about mine being 9x12 (I didn't measure), I just rolled it out till I thought it looked good. Then you slather it with butter and top it with a healthy dose of cinnamon and sugar.

Roll that dough up, stuff it in an aluminum can (you have those cans ready now, right?) and let it rise just one more time.
When it's ready, you can put it into the oven and................

Voila! Do you see the cinnamon-sugar-buttery goodness seeping down the side of the can? Oh, just wait until you actually slice of piece of this and then top it with a nice, big pad of butter. Yum.

My stomach just growled. I think it's time for me to go bake some more.

CINNAMON RAISIN BREAD
1/2 cup warm water
2 pkg. yeast
1 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp.salt
1/4 cup shortening
4 1/2 cups flour
1 egg
1 cup quick oatmeal
1 cup raisins
6 T. melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T. cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped nuts

DIRECTIONS: Soak yeast in warm water for 5 minutes. Combine milk, sugar and salt; stir to dissolve. Beat in 1 cup flour, shortening, egg and yeast mixture. Add oatmeal and raisins. Add remaining flour, mixing until dough leaves the sides of bowl. Knead thoroughly, adding flour as necessary until dough is smooth and elastic and not sticky (5 to 10 minutes). Place in lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise (1 hour). Punch down and let rise again. Divide dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each into a 9x12 rectangle. Spread 3 T. butter onto top of each dough portion. Mix brown sugar with cinnamon and nuts; sprinkle over buttered surface. Roll up into loaves and put into greased pans. Cover and let rise again until dough reaches top of pan (1 hour). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes or until bread is golden brown.

January 12, 2011

Baked Apples

Really, is there any better smell than that of apples baking?
When you smell the aroma coming from the oven while you are baking apple pie, or applesauce, or apple crisp...doesn't it just make you linger a moment longer wherever you are in the house? You just need one more sniff of that mouthwatering, cinnamony, warm apple goodness. You can almost taste the brown sugar, carmalized, buttery flesh on your lips. Just from one smell.

Apples have always been one of my most favorite fruits. I think, again, it is because of sentimental attachment. Our farm had an apple orchard. I have fond memories of those fall harvests. And, of course, there are so many wonderful ways to prepare apples. They can be a side dish, part of a main dish, or the dessert. Even a healthy snack for the littles!

Every year our grocery store has a super sale on apples. You can buy Gala, Jonagold, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious for about 50cents/pound. Considering I haven't found too many apple orchards out here, that is a tremendous deal. So, because I'm crazy, I buy about 80 or more pounds of apples at a time. I wrap them in plastic grocery bags and put them in the refrigerator. Believe it or not, they last well into the winter and it's a wonderful way for us to have fresh fruit for a long, long time.
We were also blessed to have a huge crop of apples from the apple tree in our backyard this year. So, in the midst of making quarts and quarts of applesauce, some of the apples in our refrigerator were forgotten about. They were discovered again this past weekend and put to good use by one of my princesses. She made baked apples with dad.
Here we have the apples. They were just perfect for baking because they were getting a little old. I think the recipe called for the apples to still have the bottoms. However, ours were entirely cored.

After the apples were made ready, next came the mixing of the filling for the apples. Oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts....

Then you fill each apple with the oatmeal mixture. There was plenty of filling for each apple, so they were stuffed quite full.

Then, you bake the apples. When you take them out of the oven, this is what they will look like.
A gooey, warm, delicious treat for a cold winter night. They turned out to be quite a treat!!! We all enjoyed them and the best part was that Susie did it all by herself!

Ingredients
4 medium apples
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
3 tablespoons softened butter
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Juice from ½ a lemon
1/2 cup apple juice


Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash, peel the apples halfway, and remove the cores, taking care not to pierce through the bottom of the apple. Make a nice wide core, so there is plenty of room for the filling.
In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, oats, butter, walnuts, spices and lemon juice until crumbly. Divide mixture equally between the apples, mounding it a bit.
Place apples in an 8 x 8 inch baking pan and pour the apple juice all around the bottom.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until tender. Serve warm with gently whipped cream spooned over the top.


Thank you to DisneyFamily.com for the great recipe!

January 11, 2011

Rye Bread

My mom makes the absolute best bread. She has a knack for it. I, on the other hand, have struggled with bread-making for years. There are various reasons, but I think my lack of patience is the main culprit.
A while ago I asked my mom, "Do you really wait for it to rise twice and then a third time in the pan before you bake it?" She replied "Yes" with a look of "are you seriously asking me this" on her face. "Ohhh..." I said.
I guess my idea of making bread is 1. mix the ingredients up 2. put it in a bowl for a while (but not too long, because kids are bugging me that they're hungry and I need to feed them fast) 3. throw it in a pan and send it to the oven 4. eat it.
So, you see, the idea of actually letting it rise and punching it down a few times eluded me. What I didn't realize is that this step is pretty important. The bread needs to release some gas. Yep, I said it. Bread is gassy. If it doesn't have the chance to properly relieve itself, well... it just won't rise like it's supposed to.
So, if you decide to try this recipe, give yourself some time before you plan on actually eating it. I always start making it early in the morning so that by noon you can have it in the oven.

First things first. Mix your ingredients together and knead the dough until it is soft but not sticky. Put it in a greased bowl and wait for it to rise once. Punch it down. Wait for it to rise again. Punch it down. Here's a picture of my dough before I punched it the first time.
Lookin' good, huh? Just wait, it gets better. After you've punched it down twice, it's ready to go to the bread pan. You can use whatever bread pan you have. But, this is what I use.
Aluminum cans. It's what my mom uses and it's genius. The bread comes out perfect for slicing. And, if you buy cheese from the deli, the round slices fit on the bread like they were meant to be together. Just make sure you give the inside of the can a healthy dose of greasing. You don't want your bread to stick.

This is the finished product. Wonderfully brown on the edges. Moist in the middle. Did I mention perfect for slicing? So, so, so yummy. It also reminds me of my hometown's water tower. Strange, but weirdly true.
Enjoy. If I can make this, almost anyone should be able to.

Elaine's Rye Bread Recipe
2 1/2 cups warm water (lukewarm)
1 pkg. yeast (or 2 tsp.)
3 1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. sugar
1 T. shortening
2 cups rye flour
4 cups white flour

Directions: Put yeast in bowl; add water and let sit for a minute. Add sugar and let yeast mixture sit for a few more minutes. Add salt and shortening and flour. Add enough flour to make dough smooth and elastic; knead well. Put in greased bowl. Let rise (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down. Let rise again. Place in well greased bread pans and let rise; about 1 hour. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.


Cool Runnings

Okay, I know that Denver isn't as warm as Jamaica is in the winter. However, we have seen a fair amount of sunshine and zero snow. Until yesterday. Then the white, powdery precipitation fell in inches. Finally.

Six to eight inches of snow?


So, because we stayed in the house all day yesterday, the children had to go out and play today. It was still cold, even though Denver is full of sunshine, so everyone had to bundle up.
Dad had the great idea of sledding and so off we went, with neighbor kids in tow, to a sledding hill near our house. Hardly anyone else was there. It was sledding mania!


First, instructions had to be given and a packed-down path had to be made. A few practice runs down the hill were made.


Watch out for the trees boys! If you look closely, you'll see a sign that says, "No Sledding". Oops.


It's the girl's turn. These inflatable tubes just sailed down the hill. They work much better than any plastic sled we have. As you can see, Dad got his work-out in for the day!


Two cute little snow bunnies! We had to bundle up because it was cold outside! Thanks Grandma for the new coats!


Annie was the only one who didn't get to go sledding. It's just too cold and she's too little. Maybe next year.