The Essentials

I’m sitting here Sunday morning, hunkering down as the second snowpocalypse begins outside. I was up early, warming up the house with baking bread. Specifically, I was attempting to make buns, being once again discouraged by the mile-long list of ingredients in the store-bought varieties.


These appear to do the trick (we’ll be testing them out later today as they sandwich a black bean burger with sautéed onions and mushrooms), and they were super easy to make. I modified an existing recipe to work with the ingredients I had on hand. The recipe is as follows.

Combine and heat to about 120 degrees :

  • 1/2 cup Fage
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Mix together in a separate bowl:

  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt

Then, add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, including 1 egg. Mix thoroughly, then slowly combine about 2 to 2 1/2 cups white flour and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (I used my KitchenAid stand mixer for about 2 minutes). Take dough and pull apart into 10 to 12 pieces, which you then roll into a ball then place, slightly flattened, on a baking sheet (or, in my case, a silpat covering a baking sheet). Let rise for 30 to 40 minutes and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes (or until golden brown).

One of the biggest satisfactions of making food from scratch is the total control over the ingredients. I’m not sure why sandwich buns need high fructose corn syrup, or any of the other “enhancements.” These may not have the shelf life, but chances are they will be long gone before they expire.

Still on the topic of essentials, I’m happy to say my spinning wheel has been getting some use (not quite the 15-minutes a day I had hoped to accomplish in the new year), enough to finally finish some lovely 3-ply yarn.

Handspun Corriedale

This is spun from some handdyed Corriedale that Virginia picked up for me from cloudlover (at last year’s Shepherd’s Harvest festival). I navajo-plied the yarn, yielding approximately 370 yards from a little less than 5 ounces of roving. I believe a pair of socks are being planned with the yarn.

And, speaking of socks, Virginia has been working on several pair (as usual), one of the most recent are these:

Handknit Socks

Knit following one of Charlene Schurch’s four-stitch reticulated patterns in her book Sensational Knitted Socks. These are made with two colors of Jawoll “Aktion.”

Well, I’m off to make some lunch, and to draw in some energy for the piles of snow that will need to be shoveled over the course of the next 24 hours.

Of Roly-Polies and Pretzels

Inspired by a recipe for a jam roly-poly, I attempted my own version of this jam-filled, biscuity goodness. The end result, though not resembling anything like a rolled up swirl of jam and dough, is still a perfect accompaniment to cup of earl gray.

Cherry Rumple (aka Failed Cherry Roly Poly)

Virginia dubbed it the “Cherry Rumple.” The biscuit dough was a bit on the soft side, which caused some flattening/spreading (or, “rumpling”) in the oven. The recipe (although, I will be tweaking it in the future to make it stiffer) is as follows:

  • 1 1/4 cups of flour (maybe make this 1 1/2 cups?)
  • 3 Tbsp ground golden flax seeds
  • 3 Tbsp cold butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Mix above ingredients together until well combined, then add:

  • 1/2 cup Fage + enough almond milk to make 2/3 cups liquid
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Stir until just combined. Then, roll out on to a piece of wax paper sprinkled with flour – makes about a 9 x 12-inch rectangle that is 1/4 inch thick. Spread about 1/2 cup of cherry jam over surface, leaving about 1/2 inch of edge jam-free. Roll up, using the longer edge as starting point. Place on cookie sheet, seam side down. Bake for 30 minutes in 350 degree oven. After roll has cooled, slice and enjoy!

Pretzel Love
I always forget how fun it is to have pretzels in the house, but they never seem to make it in to the shopping cart when we get groceries. I picked some up this morning and made two very different snacks. The first requires no recipe, since you basically melt (gently) whatever favorite chocolate you have on hand in a double boiler, stir in some pretzels, remove and cool on wax paper.

Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

These will come in handy when I’m looking for something to get me through the rest of the afternoon at work. And, if that doesn’t do the trick, a small bowl with some navy bean hummus with sun-dried tomatoes will.

Navy Bean Hummus

In a small food processor, combine the following until very smooth:

  • 1 cup dried navy beans that have been cooked/boiled until very tender
  • 3 or 4 sun-dried tomato halves
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • juice from 1 large lemon
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
  • a splash of water to make desired consistency

I freely admit it. I like to snack.

End of May Mittens, (End of) Earth Bread

Hot off Virginia’s needles are these fabulous mittens.

End of May Mittens

They are knit using Cascade 220. Pattern is by Mandy Powers, called “End of May.” They will fit right in with this Middle of January.

End of May Mittens

End of May Mittens

While the mittens were blocking I was playing in the kitchen, trying to start making a dent in the bulk, two pounds of yeast I had bought a few weeks back. The bread was inspired by a desire to eat less refined foods (including flour, sugar, etc…).

Earth Bread

It’s made with a whole wheat flour sponge, but crammed inside are all sorts of goodies, like wild rice, barley, molasses, flax seed meal, sunflower seeds and some caraway seeds. I call it (End of) Earth Bread (not to be confused with the Earth Bread recipes floating around out there that are laden with oil and sugar), and think it would by a necessary addition should there be an End of Earth. Virginia thinks I’ve been watching too many post-apocalyptic shows lately (she’s right about that). But, I have to say a few loaves of this and you’d be good to go.

Around the Corner

There have been a few days in the last couple of weeks that have cooled in the evenings, sending the reminder that Fall is just around the corner. (Today being an exception, with the mercury hitting 90º F. Still, something inside stirs when the heat of Summer starts to wane.)

One sign that my body is recognizing the change is my gravitation to playing more with wool. I have started spinning again, surprised that my wheel still turns – it having sat stationary for the better part of the season.

Handspun Superwash Merino

I’m glad that I haven’t completely forgotten how to convert roving into yarn. This superwash merino (dyed by us several years ago) is spun into about 287 yards of 3-ply yarn.

I also must be feeling the need to pack on a little more insulation myself. We’ve revived the Saturday Night, Pizza Night tradition, trying out some new themes, including a new favorite:

Saturday Night, Pizza Night

It’s a pear-greens-caramelized onion-blue cheese collection of goodness baked on a thin, crispy crust that has been coated with garlicky olive oil mixed with sage. We seriously had to restrain ourselves from devouring the entire pan (even though leftover pizza is never as good as fresh-from-the-oven pizza).

Virginia is no stranger to wool, and is constantly working with it. So, season changes do not necessarily influence the amount of work she does with the fiber (although, maybe once the cold hits, she’ll be working more with alpaca, cashmere and other more insulating fibers).

She continues to knit socks, the latest being:

Handknit Socks

Handknit Socks

The rest can be seen, as always (and often before a blog post appears) on flickr.

And, it being the time to start thinking about keeping warm, Virginia is offering some of her handknits for sale on Etsy. Check back often, because she will be listing a variety of items, including shawls, cowls, scarves and (what’s listed right now) hats:

Selection of Handknit Hats

Check it out.

Routine is Good

Vacations are good. They break up your routine, change your scenery and commitments, and allow you to explore. Being back home after a longish break is good, too. There were certain aspects of our routine that I really missed. These are just a few.

With Summer really starting to ramp up, it’s a good thing we are back. The yard was a bit on the jungly side and needed quite a bit of beating back, but that also meant our potted tomatoes were doing equally well. I was happy to notice that some of them already have buds.

Tomato with Buds

The hours of yard work are rewarded with a refreshing beer on the deck. I brewed and bottled a batch before we left, giving it enough time to condition in the bottles while we were away. The resulting brew, what Northern Brewer calls its “Twisted Enkel Blonde,” is a crisp Belgian beer that is quite thirst-quenching (though some moderation might be called for – this is no Bud Light).


Our routine also includes plenty of time in the kitchen. Even though we enjoyed trying new foods out, it’s good to get back to home cooking, and there are certain “staples” that we just like to have. If you’ve been reading this blog, you may recall a recent cake recipe. I made a variation of it to have with dinner with my parents last night. This time using some freshly picked rhubarb and topped with strawberries (reduced a bit in some balsamic vinegar).

Rhubarb Cake with Strawberries

Almost weekly, I like to try out granola variations to have for breakfast. This particular version seems to be a good blend. It’s perfect in the morning with a sliced up banana and my favorite milk substitute.


I don’t really measure ingredients when I make granola (it changes based on what I might be in the mood for), but the basic recipe for this is:

  • a splash of olive oil (maybe slightly more than a tablespoon)
  • a glug of maple syrup
  • a squirt of honey or molasses (or both)
  • a heaping spoonful of crunchy, unsalted peanut butter

Gently heat above ingredients in large saucepan (on low) and add:

  • 4 to 5 cups of rolled oats
  • a handful of chopped raw cashews
  • a smaller handful of raisins
  • a sprinkling of dried cranberries
  • a sprinkling of raw sunflower seeds
  • a sprinkling of raw pumpkin seeds or pepitas

Once all the ingredients are lightly coated, spread on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 300ºF oven for about 20 minutes (or until the oats are lightly toasted). I usually stir the baking granola every 5 minutes or so to keep the raisins for getting overly done. Let cool in pan before storing.

Granola - Detail

Some things are definitely worth coming back to.