A good Loaf

Swedish Caraway Rye Bread

Swedish Caraway Rye Bread

Last Thursday night we had chicken for dinner.  I knew we were leaving really early in the morning to go away for the weekend and so I saved some of the chicken breast for sandwiches for the road trip.  I decided that I had time to whip up a loaf of really good bread and so as I thought about what kind of bread to make Swedish Rye bread came to mind.

It’s ironic that I would want that kind of bread though because as a child I hated caraway seeds and my recipe had caraway seeds in it. Funny how our tastes change as we get older.  I now love caraway, fennel, anise, ginger and olives; all of which I detested when I was younger. Anyway, I got out my recipe and got the bread mixed and rising as I made preparations for our weekend.

Much to my dismay, when it was getting time to get to bed the bread had still not completed its second rise and I needed to get to bed.  In true, ‘I can do everything’ style I decided that I would let it rise overnight and just pop it in the oven at 5:00am when I got up if it was still good.  Needless to say, it didn’t turn out to be quite that simple.  We got up to a snowstorm and needed to get on the road earlier so although the bread had risen nicely overnight I did not have time to bake it.  Now what?

I decided I had nothing to lose by freezing the risen, unbaked loaf.  If I got home and it had fallen in the freezer or would not bake properly I would throw it out but I was just not ready to give up so easily Friday morning.  It was a long road trip and I pined for my hearty rye bread with hints of caraway and juicy chicken breast atop it.  But it was not to be.  I substituted nut, seeds, raisins and a morsel of dark chocolate, somehow just not the same.

I was anxious to check the freezer when I got home last night and as soon as I got in the door I ran to the kitchen to check and see how the loaf had fared in the freezer.  It looked great but it was now a solid ice brick.  Hmm, what to do. I removed it from the freezer and after an hour when I realized this was not going to be a project I could complete that night I decided to put it in a warm place and leave it again overnight.  As it thawed it had lost some of its rise and so I really thought it would be garbage in the morning.

This morning I got up at 6:00 and hurried down the hall to check and see what had happened overnight.  To my surprise there was a beautifully risen loaf again.  I quickly preheated the oven and put the loaf in to bake.  It smelled glorious as wafts of  yeasty rye aroma spread throughout the house. When I removed the loaf from the oven I was hopeful.

After the loaf had cooled in the pan awhile I tipped the pan as usual onto a cooling rack.  Nothing.  Oh well, maybe it just needed a good whack onto the counter.  After a noisy bit of banging and dropping of the pan eventually I realized the loaf was stuck to the bottom of the pan. Shoot.  Upon further inspection and trying to pry it out with a knife I decided to just leave it cool in the pan and wrote it off as a flop.

About a half an hour later I had built up my resolve and I tried the prying method again and the loaf popped out nicely.  I still thought it was probably just a hard rye brick but when I sliced into it I was met with a dense, brown slice.  Still wary I put a little walnut oil on the slice and bit into it.  Divine, just like I remember my Mom’s bread when  I hated it so much, only now it brought me comfort and memories of how creative and adventurous a cook my Mom was, in spite our unwillingness to be open minded in our tastes.

As I anticipate the coming home of my children for Christmas I think about their tastes and the favourite baked treats and meals that say Christmas to them.  I think of the things I love and feel so smug about that they turn their noses up at.  This Christmas I think I will stick to their favourites and indulge my adventurous, creative spirit in the kitchen after I finish making a selection of goodies they love and will be anticipating.

I am including the recipe for Swedish Rye Bread here for those of you who like a good hearty loaf and the taste of Caraway.

Parents and Wisdom

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Wise Dad

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Mom still modelling getting outdoors and walking and then posing for the picture.

Today I am heading to visit my parents and that has got me thinking about parents as transmitters of wisdom.   Parents are sometimes unaware of what they may be teaching their children just by  going about living their daily life  but observation is a very powerful tool and the old adage “do as I say, not as I do” is not really effective. Sometimes it gets to be very difficult for parents to accept that the habits and traits that irritate them most about their children in fact have been picked up by observing them.  In my case this is very true.  I am not proud that I modelled stubbornness and impatience with my children often and it is not fun to be treated impatiently by my young adult children.  That being said I can look at so many good things that my parents modelled and that have now been transmitted to me and my children.

My parents are from the ‘hard working’ generation.  They believed that if you ‘put your nose to the grindstone’ and ‘buckled down’ you could succeed. They modelled this for us by going from having basically nothing but each other and their children, to paying off two properties, providing us with a beautiful recreational property to enjoy every summer, providing for any education we wanted and then turning around and repeating that with their grandchildren.  They provided rides and support to my children as they grew up and participated in sports, music and 4-H.  My parents were always there for my kids.  If one of them had a game and Gram and Pa were not notified so they could be there cheering they were disappointed and hurt.

Another thing my parents modelled to me was resourcefulness.  My Mom, in particular could make a meal out of nothing. I remember when we were young and short on cash we would be hungry and asking Mom what was for dinner.  She would sometimes reply ‘pine floats.’ I remember the first time she told us that.  Floats, I thought?  We never get treats like that; I wonder what a pine float is?  To my dismay I learned that a pine float is a toothpick floating in water.  This was my Mom’s way of telling us to stop bugging her and let her get about making whatever it is she decided to make and that she would not be taking requests.  Mom used humour often and I’m sure it was one of her coping strategies to quell her uneasiness about not being able to provide for her children and to avoid alarming us that that might be the case.

As we got older my parents hard work paid off and they were able to breathe a little easier.  They no longer had to worry about enough money for groceries; they were comfortable but not rolling in excess.  Some of the things I watched my parents do to save money and provide were things such as, going into the forest and collecting cedar blocks and then spending hours splitting the blocks into shakes for a roof.  My brothers and my Dad spent so much time carefully splitting the blocks and storing the shakes in the garage for when they would need a new roof. Generosity was also modelled and those shakes sat in the garage for years and were finally given to my oldest brother when he needed a new roof.

My Mom was and still is such a hard worker.  She always worked full time.  She would get up early and often walk to and from work in order to fit in her exercise which we learned was very important.  On top of that my Mom made all our food from scratch.  I can remember on Tuesdays or Wednesdays,  she would mix up a big batch of bread dough and put it in a covered bowl on the counter to rise.  Off she would go to work and then at lunch she would hustle home, punch the dough down and form the loaves.  They would be covered and left to rise a second time.  After work she would hurry home and put the loaves in the oven to bake and that is how we had our bread for part of the week.  Saturdays were cleaning the house and bread day as well.  She would repeat the same steps only this time she would make an even bigger batch of dough so that she could make us cinnamon buns for a treat.  All the while she would be organizing us to get our allotted house and yard work done while she worked away at jobs she did not have time to get to during the week.  Nobody was allowed to do anything with friends or for leisure until their Saturday chores were done.  At the time I remember hating Saturday mornings but funnily enough I found myself repeating this pattern with my own children for a time.  Through participating with and observing my parents, I learned to look after my belongings no matter how inexpensive or costly they had been and there are many jobs that need to be done to maintain a home and provide good food for a family.

Another one of the things my parents did to provide for their family was garden.  They would both participate in the preparation, weeding and watering of the garden but my Mom was the head cook and bottle washer when it came to preserving and preparing the food.  I spent many hours at my Mom’s side following instructions to boil canning lids, wipe the tops of the jars, pour in the syrup and such. Mom got really resourceful for a few years and we spent the winters eating canned everything. We had our favourites like cherries, peaches, pears and jam and then the ones we hated such as carrots, peas and even chicken one year.  Mom discovered that it was  cheaper to raise your own birds and then process them yourself so her and my aunt raised all these chickens and then butchered, gutted, plucked and wrapped the birds themselves.  You can imagine after that episode that we were a little turned off chicken.  My job was plucker and I remember being envious that my brothers got to gut and see the eggs and innards of the birds.  I thought it looked so interesting.

So this brings me to today. My Mom often marvels at how much I like to make things with my hands.  I have raised chickens, grown vegetables, kept a beautiful flower garden, grown fruit trees, picked mushrooms, canned, made chocolate truffles, baked bread, spun wool, knit and woven.  She can’t understand where I got the know how and willingness to learn all these things.  Really?  I rest my case on proving that the most effective way to teach your children is through being a good role model.  I may have not been listening so well but I was definitely watching.

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Calm and Cozy

sugarloaf mountain view

sugarloaf mountain view

Today my son did not have classes so we were able to have a slow start. We were sitting in jammies with a cup of java having a visit by the window by 8am.  It was a gorgeous sunny day but a little chilly when I stepped out on the porch to check the temperature.  We lingered over some favourite old music and a Face Time call to my parents.

view over Lake Superior

view over Lake Superior

My son and I

My son and I

After a quick bowl of oatmeal and shower it was time to get outside for our Vitamin N, (nature).  I feel a bit deprived in that area so we headed to Sugar Loaf Mountain (this term is used very loosely) for a hike and a view from the top.  We took the ‘difficult’ route to try get a vigorous walk in.  After climbing for about 15 minutes and about 100 stairs  we reached the top.The view was fabulous and the breeze had a bite beckoning in winter no doubt. We snapped a few photos and then descended.

Next it was time to drop  my son off at the rink for his workout and I headed to the Marquette Food Co-op which has become my favourite shop in town. I picked up some local eggs and yogurt as well as some baking soda for my son.  He has decided that he would like to learn to make  pumpkin loaf after his workout.

We arrived back to the house by noon and quickly made some salad for lunch before embarking on the baking lesson.  It was really very simple and he only needed instructions on how to not over stir the loaf.

We also picked up a sock-eye salmon from his freezer on the way back to the house so that will be what he makes us for dinner.  This will be a very satisfying dinner as the salmon is one he caught and vacuum packed himself this past summer back on the Vancouver Island where he lives.

sockeye fillet for dinner

sockeye fillet for dinner

The pumpkin loaf recipe was very easy and we got three small loaves for him to have as a treat.  The salmon recipe will be one he has picked up from several locals back home and adjusted to make his own.

You know  it is amazing how well we can cook and eat with just a few basic ingredients.  I was thinking about this as I walked into the co-op today.  Basically, we have milk, eggs, cream, olive oil, yogurt, lettuce, dried cranberries, nuts, coffee, frozen berries, flour, sugar, honey, oatmeal, and some seasonal fruit and vegetables.  We are eating local as much as possible by shopping at the co-op, the farmers’ market and the local butcher.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

This afternoon as he does his homework and I knit we will enjoy a coffee and a piece of the pumpkin bread we made.  When I leave we will both cherish this memory and the warm feelings we had both physically and emotionally as we enjoyed our homemade little treat.

Tonight as we dine on bright red sock-eye caught in our local waters back home by my son we will talk about past fishing trips, good memories made and how fortunate we are to be so connected to the sea, the land, the forest and each other.

Just a brief footnote to apologize for not linking the recipes mentioned to the sites where they can be found.  I am composing on an iPad as I travel and so I am not able to highlight the text to create the links.  I will fix this issue when I am back on my home computer.

You Don’t Like Soup?

roasting the turkey carcass before boiling

roasting the turkey carcass before boiling

Today I find myself struggling with what to do with the turkey carcass from our recent Thanksgiving dinner here in Michigan.  The thing is I am not at home in my own kitchen and so there are no staples or pantry items.  Oh and the other big problem is…..my son hates homemade soup.

When I was raising my 3 children often Monday would be homemade soup day.  I thought I was being a frugal gourmet while at the same time a super mother, you know, real food made from scratch, delicious and nutritious.  Not to mention the warm homemade bread which accompanied it. (My favourite recipe still from Harrowsmith Country Living Cookbook.) Every Monday the kitchen would be steamy and warm from the soup bubbling away on the stove and the sweet brown bread coming out of the oven.

I would set the table and present  what I thought was a meal fit for a high end restaurant with cloth napkins, cheese or herb garnish for the soup and loads of salty butter for the warm from the oven bread.  A handwoven basket of notable character (usually a gift from South African friends or one of my weaving friends) would be lined with a handwoven napkin and brimming with the yeasty delectable bread.  The soup would be placed in the middle of the table so as to awe the awaiting diners( my family) with  the ladling of the earthy mixture of broth, vegetables and herbs.  Think of it as dining foreplay,  meant to entice the eager eater into heightened gastonomic pleasure!

You can imagine my surprise when on one of these such nights my son, who suspiciously had been consuming copious amounts of bread and very little soup announced, “I hate homemade soup.”   “What, you hate my soup?  How can that be?”

It was unfathomable to me.  How could anyone not appreciate the fine flavours, the delightful presentation and my enthusiasm in the domestic arts?  That one short sentence brought me off my home economic high horse right promptly and caused me to have to adjust my expectations of my children’s individual palettes.

I continued to make soup on Mondays but the rule was my son had to eat one ladle of soup minimum and if he really wanted to indulge on the bread he had to make an effort to accompany it with a little more soup, even if was just the broth.

You may be wondering why I tell this story today.  Well, as I said, here I am in Michigan, renting a small house without my usual well stocked pantry and I need a nutritious dinner for us and  just happen to have a turkey carcass.  But wait, alas the boy doesn’t like soup. But I just can’t bear to throw away that carcass.  Hmmm

farmer's market finds

farmer’s market finds

The solution comes to me in a flash.  I will use the turkey soup stock to cook potatoes and leeks in and I will create the one soup he does like. Leek and Potato Soup.(recipe tab)  Don’t ask me why but my son loves this soup.  It really is the only soup he will eat.  In the fridge I happen to have leeks and potatoes from the Farmer’s Market in Marquette and I brought some herbes de provence with me so we are set.  There won’t be any homemade bread but we are both watching our ‘carb’ anyway.  Not only will we have a nutritious, comforting meal.  I will be able to give him a cooking lesson at the same time and he will be able to use the recipe I texted him a few weeks ago.

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So, with snow and hail and frozen rain falling intermittently all day today and the cold north wind blowing we are going to hunker down tonight and enjoy the one soup that satisfied my need to be resourceful and frugal and allows my son to enjoy his meal.

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