America, Celebration, Family, Farm, Food, Funny, Health, Uncategorized

The Marriage Bread

Chris recently said that he was “getting really tired of calling me his girlfriend.” Most girls would probably be a little bit offended by that, but I knew he was thinking about a title upgrade, not a title downgrade, so I let it slide.

I’m not really known for anything significant. Some people are known for being great swimmers or accomplished pianists, but I’m known for random things, like being able to tell the difference between cauliflower and broccoli plants, knowing the exact percentage of cotton in different t-shirts by just feeling them, and drinking an exorbitant amount of coffee every day.

And, apparently, bread baking.

I found a recipe for bread in my grandma’s local newspaper a few years ago. And like the dweeb I am, I cut it out and saved it. No new age Pinterest recipes for me! (Just kidding Pinterest, you know we’re buds.)

According to the article, people submit recipes all year long to the newspaper and at the end of the year someone chooses the favorite from each category. This just happened to be the best in bread and it sounded good, so I kept it.

I’d never made bread before, which should be a testament to how easy it is. However, I’ve made it multiple times for multiple people and everyone loves it and acts like I’m a magician for being able to make it.

When Chris and I started dating, I warned him that I was by no means a chef and didn’t cook super often. Then, I realized that was probably not the best thing to say to a potential suitor, so I followed it up with “but, I could feed you.” Yes. I really said those words. On our second date.

Which in my mind meant, I’m not a great cook, but I can cook and you won’t starve. He laughed because I’d worded it all in such a roundabout way. And, he kept dating me, so hey, not so bad!

Back to the bread. Chris met my extended family after we’d been dating for awhile and one of the first few questions he was asked was whether I’d made him bread yet. I hadn’t and my uncle said “just wait til you try the bread she makes, you’ll want to propose to her on the spot!”

We’d been dating about three months at this point and both found this to be a funny quip.

As we travel to see each other, we don’t cook together very often, so I still hadn’t made the infamous bread when Chris had been to see me. When he came in early December, I made a loaf and he claimed it was the best bread he’d ever had.

Now, was he just saying that because I was his girlfriend? Probably. I think he’s a bit biased. But, unbeknownst to me, he did ask my dad for his blessing to marry me that same weekend. Coincidence? Who knows, but the girl who regularly wears socks with sandals won him over somehow, so the bread theory is as good as any.

And a little over a month later, on our trip to Breckenridge, Chris conspired with another couple we were with and we drove out to Hoosier Pass on the Continental Divide and he proposed. And I said yes!

For breader or for worse.

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Craft, Dessert, Farm, Food

I Think I Can…

There is nothing like homemade bread. Nothing. I have been craving it for days. Mostly because I just finished reading a book about the Russian autocracy and it mentioned bread quite a bit. So, next on my list to bake: Russian black bread. I’ll let ya know how that goes. The thing about baking bread is it’s a process. This one is a 12 hour process, with all the rising and such that has to take place. So, you can’t just have it when you want it. You have to plan for it. Which probably makes it taste that much better. This is one of my classics: maple oat bread. I found the recipe in the Spring and I think I’ve made it a dozen times since then. It’s so good!

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You know what goes great on bread? Homemade jam. Which I made a few weeks ago for the very first time. Out of mulberries I picked. How much more down home do you get than that?

Fresh picked mulberries

Fresh picked mulberries

I have always wanted to try my hand at canning, so I got up the nerve and finally did it. We were going to visit our friends while in Canada, so I thought mulberry jam seemed like an appropriate gift. TSA agreed with me after they checked all my carefully bubble wrapped jars. After they went through it, they probably thought it was a grandma’s bag. But, nope, just me, a twenty something girl, hauling jam across international borders.

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If you’re going to make jam, you need to have a bunch of sugar. Like so much sugar that it literally made me feel a little anxious. I never use that much sugar for anything. Plus, I had just watched a documentary on the decay of America’s eating habits and how sugar is to blame for that. So, expert tip: don’t watch a sugar doc right before making jam.

Also to make jam, you need a whole bunch of fancy utensils that you can dirty up. Just go ahead and take out half the dishes you have and plan to get a sticky purple mess all over them. The instructions said I would need a special pot that had a basket for the jars to go in. You fill the pot up with boiling water, then completely submerge your jars in a few different steps. Well, I didn’t have the fancy pot or a mason jar basket. So, I improvised and used a steamer basket, the spaghetti noodle pot, and a pair of tongs. Was it the most practical? No. Did two pairs of tongs get hung up in the steamer basket at the same time and nearly spill boiling water everywhere? Yes. Did it work even though it wasn’t the fancy set up I should have had? Yes.

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After making the jam, I had a little leftover, so I made a jar and didn’t seal it. Since I needed an expert opinion on whether or not the jam was good, I asked a friend to take the extra jar home and test it out. Turns out the cup holders in my car fits a jam jar perfectly. And I got his seal of approval. Pun definitely intended.

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Have jam. Will travel.

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Culture, Food, Travel

Recipe Rethink

I’ve been lied to my whole life. Apparently, perch are not perch. I hope this is coming as a shock to everyone else too. What we call perch in the South are technically sunfish (I think. You might want to fact check me on that. Actually, just make a mental note now, you should always fact check me on everything I say.) So, upon discovering this, I felt I needed to take a picture with my first ever actual perch. Look at how cute this little guy was!

Note that I am wearing three layers. In June.

Note that I am wearing three layers. In June.

I’ve decided there should be a section on every recipe that gives you directions for cooking in less than ideal conditions. Sometimes, they’ll include directions for cooking at high altitudes, but how often do you make macaroni and cheese on a mountain? One time. I have done that one time. Which I was excited about because I got to use the special high altitude directions.

I’m not high maintenance. I can make do in a lot of situations. I think it’s more that I’m not very ingenuitive. Is that a word? As you can imagine, in a fish camp, the kitchens aren’t as fully equipped. Which isn’t usually a big deal because I don’t cook much on these trips. My dad is easy to please, so pretty much any sustenance will do. In fact, I think both of us could dine on only fish all week and be perfectly content. But, I bring a few easy things to throw together. And some vegetables, we can’t forget the veggies.

This year, I decided to get a little more inventive. Before we left, my brother asked if I wanted to take the mandolin (which I did consider, even though I’ve never used it before) or a cutting knife. But, I declined. If you know my track record with kitchen clumsiness, you’ll know why I declined.

I had a couple recipes I intended to make and at home, they seemed like no big deal. Unfortunately, I didn’t think things all the way through.

For banana pudding, you were supposed to whisk until smooth. No whisk? Use every utensil in the kitchen looking for the best fix and end up just using a fork. I’m pretty sure even the pioneer women had whisks. (By the way, is that word looking weird to anyone besides me?) I’ll fast forward and tell you that the fork method doesn’t really work all that well and that the pudding was definitely not smooth. The directions also said I needed to crush the cookies to sprinkle on the pudding. Luckily, the kind people at United Airlines took care of that step for me. Food processor? Completely unnecessary.

Crushed cookies

Crushed cookies

Steaming broccoli: all you need is some boiling water, right? Wrong. I forgot that a steamer basket would be needed for this task. My solution? A colander over boiling water, with a misfit lid. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think this was going to work. I thought I might end up with a new dish called broccoli a la plastic. But, it worked really well actually. Ya’ll make a note of this one, in case you are ever in a broccoli steaming pinch.

Quality engineering

Quality engineering

No pie plates? No problem. Use a cast iron skillet. It’s rustic. It should also be noted that the handle is super hot coming out of the oven and almost caused a second hand burning episode. (If you missed out on the first episode, read back a few posts and you’ll be all caught up). Luckily, my hand was saved the burning and no other major injuries were incurred. #success.

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Farm, Food, Garden

Sweet Potato Dreamin’

I graduated college exactly two year and two days ago. And, I had no idea where life would take me. Well, so far today I have: tracked down and ordered 865 specialty dyed t-shirts, planted 64 sweet potato slips (17 of which were grown in my kitchen window) and cooked 1 vat of smoked chicken stock. This is an improvement from yesterday, which was spent sewing 125 koozies together to send out to a band in Omaha. Although, yesterday did include baking a chocolate cake made with bananas and applesauce. Pretty sure this is not where I would’ve guessed life would’ve taken me in two years. But, what can I say? My life is weird.

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Did you know that you grow sweet potato slips in water? Last year was my first year to grow sweet potatoes and they were a huge success. Literally. These potatoes came out of the ground and some of them weighed 2 and 3 lbs per potato. They were giant. I purchased the slips from a local feed store. But, this year, I wanted to try growing the slips for myself. So, I read about it online and saw how to grow them, but to be honest, I was a little bit skeptical. I bought my potatoes (organic varieties from a food co-op) and put them in mason jars in the window sill and let nature do it’s thing.

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A month later and here we are. These things are crazy! The leaves sprout out of the potatoes and will grow under water. I am pretty fascinated by them. I did buy 50 sweet potato slips from the same feed store this year. I was reluctant, but my dad claimed that I needed them as “insurance”. I assured him that my window sill experiment would yield us as many slips as we needed. And, it has. So, in short, we should have an abundance of sweet potatoes come Fall.

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My great grandpa farmed sweet potatoes on the same land that I am now growing them on. He grew so many that he was known in the area for growing them and would have people stop by to buy them from him. I’m thinking I might follow in his footsteps if this harvest turns out. I always dreamed of being a sweet potato farmer. Sometimes dreams do come true.

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