Looking Back

Looking back over the year,  I think through the events and the ideas that shaped the year. I appreciate the time I have had to enjoy my life, learn new skills, and share time with others.

Rather than looking back, though, I tend to look forward. I enjoy the thrill of each new day, no matter how insignificant. I enjoy the promise of a new day. Each new day is a new joy we are all given to savor.  It is a daily blessing that we can choose to use well or do little with. Our choice.

Looking back over the year, I am anxious to begin a new year. Like many, I am weary of the difficulties America is facing. I am discouraged with failure and corruption and political gaming.  The negative economic numbers continue, unemployment is really no better, and politics are very divisive. On and on it goes. So why would I be anxious to begin a new year?  I suppose it’s because I’m encouraged that Americans, myself included, are learning hard lessons about the true and deep meaning of life and home and happiness. I sense an awakening among us and I hope I’m not wrong. I sense an awakening in America deep in our souls that will return many of us to a more principled society with less need for greed. Our family and personal values have taken a beating over the years and I sense that people are realizing this now more than ever. Perhaps there will be a shift back to home life.

Are people coming home? Are you sensing this, too? Home is where the heart is. Let’s hope 2011 brings more people home.

Greenery At Garden Camp

The temperatures in the Valley are rising! The next few days will be above-freezing, most of the remaining snow will melt, and hopefully the ground will thaw.

Yesterday and today I took advantage of the above-freezing weather and opened up all of the Winter tents at Garden Camp. As soon as the morning temps rise, I head outside to prop the tents open. A few days of sunshine and fresh air are what we all live for, even the veggies inside the Winter tents.

Today I picked some Lettuce and Kale for fresh eating with our evening meal. Some of the Lettuce leaves have some unsightly die-back but I can work around that. At the produce stand, organic leaf lettuce was $3.99/lb last week! I’ll take home-grown, thankyouverymuch…

Doesn’t it just figure that there is such amazing weed growth under the tents? But check out that Clover on the back left!

What a nice site from the back windows now: greenery! The garden greens are alive and hanging on.

Despite the very cold temps and frozen soil,  I see the advantages to Winter gardening.  The Wintertime Garden Camp will become a yearly event around here. Maybe next Winter, the encampment might even grow!

Cinnamon Rolls

Make these treats at home with wholesome ingredients!

Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1 recipe Whole Wheat Rolls
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, optional

Make the Whole Wheat Roll recipe. Divide the risen dough in half. Roll each half into an 8 x 16 inch rectangle.

Combine sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Spread half of the mixture onto each rectangle. Sprinkle each rectangle with raisins and pecans if you are using them.

Roll the first dough-rectangle from the long side, as for a jelly roll; seal long edge.  Repeat for the second dough-rectangle.

Cut in 1-inch  slices.  Place in 2 greased 9-inch square baking pans.  Cover and allow to rise until doubled (about 35 minutes).

Bake in 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until done. Remove from pans and cool on racks. Frost with your favorite icing, if desired.  (My personal favorite is a spoonful of Cream Cheese that’s just slightly been sweetened. )

Whole Wheat Rolls

We usually have these rolls or a loaf of home-baked bread in the breadbox at all times.  We like our whole grain breads!

This is my basic roll recipe I came up with many years ago. The rolls are ever so slightly sweet and wonderfully rich. Good for every day and fantastic for a meal when company comes.

Depending upon the shape during the second rise, the rolls can become pan rolls, dinner rolls, crescents, or cloverleafs. With a crease and a fold-over, the dough can be shaped for Parkerhouse Rolls, too. I even use this recipe as the basic bread to make Cinnamon Rolls (it will be posted tomorrow).

Whole Wheat Rolls

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup shortening or solidified coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 teaspoons active dry yeast (this is 2 packages of yeast)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110-degrees F)
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (ground to a medium or medium-fine flour)
  • 2 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten flour*
  • 2 eggs

Scald milk in saucepan and remove from heat. In the same saucepan, add shortening (or coconut oil), sugar, and salt. Stir to allow ingredients to blend with the scalded milk. Stir until shortening melts and the sugar dissolves then cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, sprinkle yeast into a measuring cup with 1/2 cup lukewarm water and stir to dissolve the yeast. Set aside.

When scalded milk mixture has cooled, transfer to a mixing bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of unbleached flour to the milk mixture (reserve 1/2 cup of unbleached flour for final mixing). Mix for 1 minute; beat in the 2 eggs, then add the yeast and water to blend.

Gradually add the 2 cups of whole wheat flour and the whole wheat gluten flour while mixing to make a soft dough. If the dough is not leaving the sides of the bowl, slowly add additional unbleached flour (use the reserved 1/2 cup of unbleached flour).

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky (or machine knead) for about 8 minutes.

Place kneaded dough in lightly greased bowl, then invert to place dough  greased side up.

Cover and allow to rise in warm place until doubled (1 hour or more). Punch down and turn out onto lightly floured surface.

To make rolls, divide dough into roll portions ( I usually weigh my roll portions at 20-22 grams each).  Shape each portion as desired. For pan rolls, shape the dough in 2-inch balls. Place in greased round layer cake pans. Cover and allow to rise until doubled (about 30-45 minutes).

Bake rolls in 375-degree F oven for 12-15 minutes or until tops are beginning to brown. Once baked and taken out of the oven, I brush tops lightly with melted butter.

Rolls can also be made in greased muffin pan cups or in 9×12 baking pans instead of round cake pans. The rolls can also be placed on greased baking sheets where they can rise and cook without touching.

I’ve shaped these into larger round rolls and placed them on greased baking sheets for larger bun-size rolls. I’ve also shaped the dough into long hoagie-style rolls where they baked on large cookie sheets or in glass Pyrex dishes.  Use what you have and enjoy the home-baked whole wheat rolls. Just remember: cooking time will increase by a few minutes when baking larger rolls.

*Wheat gluten flour. I use the wheat gluten flour to add elasticity to the dough. As an ingredient in this proportion, it help the rolls rise, but this ingredient can be omitted.

Indoor Herbs

This Winter, I’ve got a few indoor herbs growing in a corner of our dining room. The greenhouse won’t be heated up and running until late January when I begin setting seeds into potting soil. Until then, I have to settle on a few house plants and anything I winter over from the gardens.

The Bay bush is inside too, waiting out the cold and windy Winter season. Next Spring, I plan to cut some of the bush off but until then, I enjoy the greenery.

This year, I wanted to overwinter my Rosemary so I transplanted it from the herb border.  I’ve been snitching sprigs here and there for cooking — this variety is ‘Salem’ and is heavily scented and apparently quite tolerant of indoor growing.   Two small Rosemary starts are also in pots now, overwintering inside, and both have new tip growth. They’re looking good.

As luck would have it,  I spied 2 volunteer Basil babies in October and wanted to let them grow on. Being so late in the season, I dug them up to overwinter them. They’re in the house now suffering the plight of dry indoor air, but they’re still growing. I’ve never tried growing Basil indoors during the Winter so any helpful hints would be appreciated. At this point, I plan to clip back the tall stems so they can bush out.  I hope. The lack of moisture, sunlight, and heat is taking a toll on these Basil but I’ll try to keep them going.  In the interim, my reward will be a couple of cheesy Basil Pizzas this week. Doesn’t that sound like a perfect way to use those trimmed leaves?