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Archive for September, 2008

Optimism

Sorry I haven’t posted anything exciting. I still need to do a write-up about a driving tour we took of our town. I have some great pictures from it with a lovely church that George Washington read morning prayers in during the Revolutionary War. I also need to write about our amazing trip to Boston over the Fourth of July. Our family camping trip on the Appalachian trail had some nice moments that I would like to chronicle. All this piles up on my to-do list, as does the laundry, clothes that need to be put away and the piles of paper sitting on my desk. And so what do I do? I write a post about current events.

So a few thoughts about the current economic conditions and my feelings about said conditions.

Gas: I’m so grateful that it is below $4.00 a gallon. I think it got to about $4.64 a gallon here in Westchester county. It was alarming to fill up my tank and have the pump stop at $75.00 and still needing to add to the tank. Although I breathe a sigh of relief that it isn’t as expensive, I still feel very concerned over the current prices. It has been a positive drive toward hybrid vehicles. My husband drives a used Honda hybrid. It’s a cute little two-seater that gets 50 mpg. My husband drives about 30 miles a day to and from work total. I use it whenever I have more than two people to cart around.  I recently drove it to a training meeting because I’m going to be an elections inspector this year in November. Which brings me to my next topic:

Elections: I’m excited that I get to a part of the election process. I’m going to be manning a special machine that will allow the severely disabled to vote. Anyone is allowed to use the machine, but its design and purpose are geared toward the disabled. I am happy to avoid all the tedious details of finding names in books and dealing with potential disputes over being allowed to vote.

I’m intensely interested in the election. Neither candidate thrills me in the slightest. While Obama is certainly intelligent, an amazing orator, and skilled, I disagree with his intent to bring our country more into socialism. I’ve lived with socialism and I’ve several complaints against it. I’m not greatly impressed with McCain either and his age certainly concerns me. But I really, really like Sarah Palin. I feel like there is actually someone on the ballot who can relate to me as a mother, woman, and small-town citizen. She’s tough and smart. I’ve been disappointed with the bashing that has been directed against her on both sides. The criticism from conservative women that she is a working mother and will harm her family is hypocritical because the same standards aren’t applied to any of the male candidates. It’s sexist and completely ignores the contribution and support of her husband. I also disagree with the stance of liberal feminists in claiming that Palin’s support on some issues marks her as anti-woman. As a stay-at-home mother to four children, I have yet to see Palin’s stance as anti-woman. I realize we all have different opinions about these issues. Whatever the outcome, this is a very historic election. I hope you are all registered to vote and exercise your right accordingly.

Economic turbulence: My husband called me this afternoon and said “I wanted to call and tell you that I love you.” His tone was especially fervent as went on, “I’m so glad you convinced me not to try and buy a house when we moved to New York. The house rejected the bail-out bill.” It is ironic that we didn’t try to purchase a house. We discussed it extensively and even qualified for a loan. But I felt such a nagging sense of worry about it, then we decided against it. Six months later, we are both profoundly grateful that we didn’t buy a house. We don’t know what the future holds for us, but it is very relieving that we don’t have the burden of a huge mortgage hanging over our heads.

Sometimes we are tempted to think that markets have never been this bad or that circumstances have never been this threatening, but just looking back a hundred years in our history reveals a very different picture. In the 30’s, my own great-grandfather lost every penny he had in a bank failure. Somehow, his family survived and lived happily. The 80’s was a rotten decade for my father’s business and he still remembers that time with a shudder. And yet my parents still manage to hang on to their business and feed and clothe my sisters and I. They even managed to help put us through college.  So even though things are tough right now and may even get worse, I still feel hope for our future.

And finally, in the spirit of optimism, I made the most beautiful beef pot pie for our dinner tonight. And my living room is clean. I even managed to tackle the disgusting bathroom the boys use. I’ve locked it so it will stay clean for a little longer.

Here’s hoping I can catch up!

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Oat Pan Rolls

The truth is,  not only do I obsess about crumb-free floors, but I adore baking. I’m not much of a cookie baker, because I don’t really care for sweets, but baking breads has become a passion of mine. It took me five years of consistent failure to learn how to make a decent loaf of bread. But once I figured it out, it has brought a lot of joy to my life. I intend to write more tips about making bread and avoiding the pitfalls that I fell into.

The following recipe makes wonderful dinner rolls. They are easy to make and have a nice texture and flavor. They are almost reminiscent of wheat rolls without the wheat. The recipe lends itself easily to adaptation. If you want to substitute some wheat flour for part of the all-purpose flour, that would work fine. Also, honey could easily be used in place of the brown sugar.  My kids and husband really love these rolls. They freeze beautifully as well.

Oat Pan Rolls

2 cups quick/cooking oats

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup butter, cubed

1 tablespoon salt

2 1/2 cups boiling water

2 packages (1/4 ounce each) (or 2 tablespoons)dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour

Additional butter, melted

 

In a bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, butter and salt; stir in boiling water. Cool to 110-115 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand for 5 minutes. Add oat mixture and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 20 pieces. Place in a greased 13 in x 9 in x 2 in baking pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack; brush with melted butter.

Yield: 20 rolls

 

Notes: I actually make about 35-40 rolls, since my kids do better with smaller rolls.

Tips: When putting the yeast in the water, make sure the water is not too warm or too hot. I don’t have a thermometer so I use my finger to determine if it is too hot or cold. Once the yeast is dissolved, it should start to get foamy and bubbly. This is one way you know your yeast has activated and will work in the bread.

When adding the flour in your dough, make sure the dough feels satiny and smooth. It shouldn’t feel dry or too sticky. Really work the dough until it feels elastic. This may take some practice, but it will come. If it doesn’t feel smooth, keep kneading it.

If you have questions about making bread, let me know. I’d be happy to answer your specific concerns.

Also, if you have any kind of a mixer with dough hooks, use it!!!!!! I promise that it is the easiest way to make bread. The hooks do all the work and do it so quickly.

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Brown sugar muffins

I first had these muffins when visiting my oldest sister and her husband when they were newlyweds. I remember crowding into their tiny BYU apartment and smelling the delicious smell of these muffins cooking in the background.

I usually make these on Sunday evenings to go with the popcorn dh makes. They are quick and easy and my kids just devour them.

Brown Sugar Muffins

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. soda

1 tsp. salt

2 cups flour

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar together until mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, salt, and soda and mix well. Finally, add the milk and mix well. Pour into muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 18 muffins.

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Crescent Rolls

This week I have baked the following breads:

oat pan rolls, crescent rolls, brown sugar muffins, and french bread

Crescent roll recipe

Dissolve 2 tbls. yeast and 3/4 cup warm water

After the yeast is nice and foamy, add 1/2 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup butter, 1 tsp. salt, 3 cups flour

Knead together. The dough will be very sticky. Let rise 1 1/2 hours. After the dough has risen, you may have to knead additional flour into the dough to be able to roll it out. Divide dough into thirds and roll into a circle. Spread with melted butter. Cut into eighths. Roll each wedge into a crescent roll shape. Let rise on pan for 1 hour. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes.

This recipe yields soft, buttery rolls that almost melt in your mouth. They are very forgiving and easy to make. They make a heavenly snack spread with a little butter and jam.

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I was surfing the net the other day and clicked on a link from Naiah. Her post about home so perfectly described my own feelings that I asked if I could link it on my blog. So here is the link, enjoy the post.

http://naiah.synthian.org/?p=226

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I outdid myself tonight

So I was feeling uninspired tonight as I faced the prospect of dinner tonight. Usually, I pull food that I have and create something good out of it. I had some good ingredients I wanted to try, but wasn’t sure how to pull them together in a tasty way. Tentatively, I experimented and I am very, very pleased with the results.

Chicken and squash sauce (served over rice)

2 chicken breasts, diced

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup to 1 cup frozen chopped butternut squash

1/2 to 1 cup frozen zucchini

basil, oregano, pepper, parsley, salt

1 cube chicken bouillon

milk, water

flour

Saute onion and garlic until tender. Add chicken cubes and cook. When chicken is cooked, add butternut squash and zucchini. Add the bouillon cube and a little water, just enough for the cube to dissolve. Cook for a couple of minutes on medium high. When the squash and zucchini are tender, pour in a large spoonful of flour. Mix the flour into the chicken mixture. Then add enough milk to make a creamy sauce. Add spices to taste.

The result was a creamy sauce with color and flavor that went well with rice. The sweetness and texture of the butternut squash was a real delight to the tastebuds. My kids were totally skeptical when they sat down to dinner and said they would only have rice. To my surprise each of them tried the sauce and ate it all and asked for seconds. This is definitely a mixture I’ll try again. It was economical and fast to fix, taking about as much time as the rice to cook.

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For a good cause

www.thebreastcancersite.com

Simply clicking on the link and then clicking on the pink button donates a free mammogram to an underprivileged woman in our country. Several corporate sponsors are teamed with this site as a means of advertising. They donate the mammograms for clicking on the button on the site.

This is an easy way to help fight breast cancer.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a friend of mine recently passed away from breast cancer. So this hits close to home. Feel free to share the info with your friends.

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