Return to Simpler Times

I have blogged in the past about being a bit hippy in the sense that I have always had a garden, been a recycler before it was popular or required, used up/reused before throwing away. Long before I met my husband, I cooked from scratch, baked my own bread, and was vegetarian by choice, though that aspect is more limited as he is a definite omnivore and cooking two different meals is too onerous. We do have meatless meals occasionally, I do make sides such as macaroni and cheese or au gratin potatoes that I can eat as my meal and he as a side. During my earlier days of omitting meat from my diet, I read several books, bought a couple. Only one of them has stayed in my library, a nutrition guideline and recipe book full of vital information and anecdotes of the lifestyle changes of the authors. The book is “Laurel’s Kitchen.”

My copy is 2 years older than our marriage, 4 years older than my eldest child, well worn, well loved, and cherished. Though I rarely refer to a recipe anymore in my cooking, it is still pulled off the shelf to check my intuition when returning to cooking something I have let lapse over time.

One of those processes that lapsed after the kids were grown and less bread consumed, was bread baking. By that time, artisan loaves and whole grain breads could be purchased in the grocer or at the Farmers’ Markets. With us at home and away from others, bread baking has returned to my routine. The internet has a wealth of recipes and instructions on “how to” but I love my old book. Yesterday, I blogged that with our Natural Foods Store doing email orders and no touch curbside delivery, I bought the fixings for a meatless Mediterranean dinner, but needed to make Pita. When I first moved into this home with hubby still working across the state, Son 1 and his family were living here with me and still doing interior work on the house. They were very amenable to meatless meals and both very good cooks, so we would buy Dolmas and olives, they would make hummus and tabbouleh, and I would make Pita bread and we would feast. I haven’t made Pita in at least a dozen years, but knew that when I made them then, the recipe did not come from the internet, but from my beloved book. This morning, I pulled it back off the shelf to refresh my memory. The recipe in the book makes 24 Pitas, or if half of the dough is formed into a loaf, a dozen Pitas and a loaf of bread. I may go for half a dozen Pitas, a loaf of bread and half a dozen sandwich rolls.

When I was making bread for our growing family, hubby bought me a giant pottery bowl.

I would mix up 3 or 4 loaves of bread, beating the dough with a large wooden spoon and breaking a few of them over the years as the dough got stiff. Kneading in more flour in the bowl by hand until the dough was not sticky and turning it on a floured board or counter to finish kneading it. At a craft fair at some point, hubby bought me a wooden dough bowl.

The final kneading and rising could be done in the bowl. It was all done by hand, but alas, a wrist break, wrist surgery, and arthritis make if nearly impossible to do the entire process by hand anymore. I can do the artisan type breads, but that dough doesn’t make good rolls or Pita so we bought me a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

It is not a commercial grade one and it struggles toward the end of kneading dough, so it gets the bread started and then I turn it into the wooden dough bowl to do the final kneading and proofing. The dough is proofing covered in that precious wooden dough bowl as I write. Later it will be divided and prepared for baking the bread for dinner and meals later in the week. A slow down in time, a return to a simpler life. There is some good come from this staying at home.

And So It Begins – 11/22/2019

Another front is barreling through our area. After a miserably dry summer, we are at least getting some rain. It rained hard over night, the wind was quite gusty when we went out late morning. Today is colder than yesterday with the high reached around noon and a downward fall to around freezing with more rain tomorrow and even colder temperatures.

Between rain, the car has been packed with totes of soap, salve, yarn, knits, laundry stain bars, beard oil, Men’s grooming boxes, Guest Bath boxes, display racks and two mannequins. Tomorrow the rain isn’t supposed to begin until after I am unloaded and hopefully with help toted upstairs to the room I have been assigned at the Catawba Farmers Holiday Market. I hope the rain doesn’t prevent folks from coming out to shop. I am inside, a few vendors are under the picnic shelter. It might be cold and damp for them. I don’t know if the Catawba Community Center is heated, so I will layer in wool and be prepared to peel layers if necessary. This event provides each vendor an 8 foot table and a chair, so I don’t need to load my tables and since it is indoors, I don’t need my tent. I have one more pair of mittens on the needles that I hope to have ready for tomorrow, but if not, I will have them for other Holiday markets. I was making them for me, but decided they are too pink for my tastes, so I will spin something else for mine or dig through my yarn to find a skein I like.

Next weekend there is no event, but then I have 3 weekends in a row (if stock holds) at the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market Holiday event and 2 of those weekends in costume spinning and vending in the late afternoon/evening hours at Wilderness Road Regional Museum Noel Nights and Christmas Bazaar. They will require tables, chair, and the Farmer’s Market one, my tent and weights. The car is quite full then.

This morning, I awoke to the memory that 56 years ago, as I sat in class in High School awaiting the arrival of a friend who had moved away and was coming to visit for my 16th birthday party, an announcement was made that our President had been shot and later died. That is probably the most significant first historical memory of my life. The friend did arrive, the party did not happen, and the country watched the news in shock and mourned. Yesterday, I celebrated my 72nd birthday and am thankful to my family and friends who remembered me with well wishes and to my hubby, who treated me to a new wool hoodie, some chocolates, and a dinner out at a local restaurant that we had not tried before.

The Thanksgiving shopping got done in the rain today. A few gifts were purchased last night. One warm cozy gift was finished yesterday. I look forward to having some of our children and their families join us next week and wish the entire family could be together for a holiday again.

Old Dog, New Trick – 10/26/2019

Depending on the trick, this old dog can be taught a new one. About 2 years ago, ads for the Instant Pot or it’s other brand variations were prevalent. I suggested to hubby that it would be a good birthday or Christmas gift (those events are only a month apart). He didn’t know what one was and I had a coupon for Bed, Bath, and Beyond that was about to expire, so we went looking. They had a different brand that I didn’t like all the features on it, and we had to go over to Target for something else and they did have two sizes of Instant Pot brand on sale. I didn’t get it for my birthday or Christmas, he told me to go on and get it right then as it wasn’t very expensive. It has totally changed the way I cook. To be able to cook dry beans in 40 minutes, stew, or brown rice in about the same amount of time was luxury. I have used it for making yogurt, but that is as easy in a cooler. I cooked a dozen eggs for deviled eggs, but a steamer works just as well. The Instant Pot gets used about 5 times each week. Now that I know it’s features and how long it takes to make a recipe, I have begun to experiment with other recipes.

One that I used to make for the family is Greek Stew. It takes hours to prepare, but is delicious and even better as left overs. The farmers market had green bell peppers and the last of the season’s eggplants today, both are ingredients necessary for the stew.

Because I needed the kitchen for one last soap session, but because I wanted to prepare the stew while the ingredients were fresh, I set about altering the recipe for the Instant Pot. The recipe starts by sauteing onion quarters until golden. It has a feature for that. Once the onions are spooned out, stew beef dredged in flour and cinnamon is browned, again the saute feature. The browned beef and onions are added back together with tomato sauce and beef broth and simmered for several hours to tenderize and cook the meat. Instead of hours, 40 minutes on the pressure setting will handle it. Then you add raw rice and cook til the rice is tender, the Instant Pot has a rice setting. Then you add cubed eggplant and cook for 20-30 minutes which can be done on the low saute setting and finally 10 minutes with large chunks of green bell peppers. Instead of more than 4-5 hours, this stew will be ready in just a little over an hour.

The beautiful pottery bowls are from a local pottery and friend, Dashing Dog Studio, the wooden ladle is from Chester P. Basil’s Wood, purchased at a craft fair at least a dozen years ago.

Sometimes, I don’t know how I cooked without it, but if necessary, I can still cook on the stove top, the top of the woodstove, or the gas grill when Mother Nature takes out our power.