Bread, 1948

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"Sometime after WWII in 1947 or 1948, there were no grocery stores. No such thing as a Publix or Wal-Mart. The closest thing was an A&P, so everything was bought from a local dry goods store. The bread products were pretty slim pickings. Wonder bread and Roman Meal were the only choices. If you really wanted good bread, you bought homemade or made it yourself.

Dry goods included things like Post Toasties, clothes, coal oil, fuel for cars and engines, lunch meat, and canned goods. Bananas were laid out in big tin coffins from South America, full of shredded papers and sometimes, really big spiders. You could buy Evening in Paris cologne and Tangee lipstick which turned different colors on different people.

My mom, Grandma Lucille would put us in the car, a 40s Ford, and we’d drive out into a more rural area than where we lived and stop at a house that looked like it had no lights. Lots of people didn’t have electricity in the country in the 40s and even in the 50s.

My mother would go inside and buy homemade bread from this lady. The bread would still be warm; fresh from a wood burning stove and a wood fired oven. I’ve never had bread like it since. White bread. Shaped like a big loaf and twice the size of a loaf of bread today. Truly tremendous sized pieces of bread."

I think I'll bake some bread. Here's a recipe I found for Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread that sounds mouth-watering. And Dad's a big fan of toast so maybe a loaf of Whole Wheat Bread with Walnuts and Cranberries. A slice of that slathered with fresh creamy butter ought to satisfy any bread-lover's cravings.

Dad told me about the butter they used too. "We’d slather it with our own homemade butter. We had a dairy farm with twenty or thirty cows. My mom made butter and sold it. You milked each cow individually so you had a small herd in order to keep up with the milking. We didn't have automation and milked cows twice a day, morning and night. Then we put the milk big milk cans and sold it to the dairyman. The milk is then sold to the consumer or made into cream or butter. Did you know that milk is sold by the pound to dairies? How many pounds the cow produces, not the gallons. One gallon is about eight pounds."

I didn't know that. Did you?

A Day At The Fair

Being fascinated with farm life, and having just finished reading Farm Anatomy by Julia Rothman, I headed out to the Sarasota Agricultural Fair for the morning. I was so excited to be there in time for the 4-H / FFA Goat show. After the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer, and the singing of the National Anthem, we got to see the best young handlers and their goats. Later, a livestock barn walk-through got me mooning over my favorite cows, pigs, chickens, and rabbits. I met a camel named Adair and saw a man fly through the air on his motorbike. There was also funnel cake. It didn't last long enough to get photographed.

A great day!

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

Homemade Mozzarella

Homemade Mozzarella

Mozzarella Recipe (done in 30 minutes or less!)

  • 1 gallon of milk
  • 1.5 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/4 c. cool water
  • 1/8 - 1/4 tsp lipase powder, in 1/4 c. cool, non-chlorinated water, 20 min in advance
  • 1/4 tsp rennet (or 1/8 tsp dbl strength rennet) in 1/4 c. cool water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

1. With milk at 55 degrees and on medium-low heat, add citric acid solution and stir well. Add lipase solution and stir well. Continue heating milk to 88 degrees and then add rennet solution. Continue stirring until curds form in about 30-60 seconds. Continue stirring and heat to 100-105 degrees. Curds will begin sticking together in one mass.

2. You can strain the curds in a colander, or wait until the curds stick together and make on big ball, then pull out the ball and squeeze out the whey.

3. Put in a bowl and microwave for 30-60 seconds and carefully work the cheese, squeezing out more whey. Add salt and any herbs you wish. If the cheese is too hard to fold and stretch, microwave for another 30 seconds and work it to distribute the heat.

4. After salt is worked in and the cheese is stretchy, make a ball and put into a container and into the fridge to chill.

My cheese came out a bit lumpy, but it may be because I didn't work it enough. I just squeezed out all the whey with a cheesecloth and added salt. About five minutes later I pulled it apart and put it on top of homemade pizza with fresh basil and tomatoes. Heaven.

Cheesemaking Supplies: http://dairyconnection.com + http://cheesemaking.com

Note: Mozzarella freezes very well.

Dukan Vegetable Soup

You're going to think I'm crazy, but it's cold here in Florida. This weekend we've had a cold snap. I'm not used to the cold. It's been a couple of years since my migration from NYC to Sarasota, Florida and waking up to 31 degrees is not something I enjoy. So, today I decided to make a big pot of soup. And boy, was it a welcomed treat.

As many of you know, I've been on the Dukan Diet since the end of last June and it's taken me a bit longer to lose the weight I need to because I MAKE CANDY. And test candy. And taste candy. And, I'll admit, I just sometimes eat candy. So, I'm now 15 pounds away from my goal weight and this soup is helping me over this hurdle to the next phase. It's called Miracle Soup in the Dukan Diet book, but I've added my own twist.

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Miracle Soup

  • 1 pound of organic low-fat ground beef or turkey
  • 6 large onions
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, sliced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • One can of Muir Glen organic fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 low-sodium beef bouillon cubes
  • 3 tsp Better Than Broth chicken stock

Put the ground meat and onions in 1 Tbsp of olive oil and cook until slightly browned. Add in carrots, green pepper, celery, tomato, and cabbage in a soup pot and add water until all veggies are covered. Then add the stock and bouillon cubes. Bring the soup to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to a simmer and cook another 15 minutes until vegetables are soft.

Ladle out into bowls and top with a couple tablespoons of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt to cool it down and add some creaminess.

This soup is so hearty and warming and delicious. I have enough to last me half a week! Yummy way to reduce meal-time planning woes. (I'm great with dessert and terrible at dinner plans. I mean, hey, I make candy. You get the picture.)

Enjoy!

Canning and Preserving

Living in Florida has its perks.

One is the fact that our planting and gardening season runs from February through November. Yes, you read that correctly. That means that canning and preserving isn't a necessity but something that some of us enjoy. Also, it means we can share our seasonal goods with friends up North more readily than most.

Now, I don't know about you but I'm a big fan of pickles. Unfortunately, I'm also allergic to garlic. (I know, it's one crazy allergy.) And you know what the main ingredient is in pickled anything you find at the store? GARLIC. So you can see my dilemma. Love pickles, can't eat store-bought ones.

[Canning & Preserving enters Stage Right.]

Pickled Cucumbers

Strawberry Preserves

Nectarine Jam

This year I received a Shaker Cook Book for Christmas and I'm going to make pickle recipes out of that book instead of any I'll find on blogs. Here it is if you want to give it a go.

Shaker Cut Pickles

  • 4 quarts medium sized cucumbers cut in chunks
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • boiling water
  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 1 tsp Allspice
  • 1 tsp Celery seed
  • 1 tsp Mustard seed
  • 1 tsp Tumeric

Wash and cut cucumbers, add salt and cover with boiling water; let stand overnight. Make a syrup of vinegar, water, sugar, and spices. When syrup boils, drain pickles and add to hot mixture. Let come to a boil, pack into jars at once and seal.

I think I'll make them refrigerator pickles instead of hot water bath canning. I'll let you know how they turn out when I make them.

Valentine's Day Memories

Valentine's Day is always a bit bittersweet for me. It was my cousin Stacy's birthday. Stacy left this world in 2003 at the age of 39 after a mis-diagnosis and a long battle with breast cancer. Her birthday is a day to celebrate love and one to remember a woman that I knew so well, but wish I'd known better. Now, as the oldest female grandchild on my Mother's side of the family, I've surpassed her in years. Her mother and I go for walks every morning. Sometimes we talk about Stacy; her beautiful hair, her melodic singing voice, her laughter, her unwavering faith, and her buoyant sense of humor. Most times we don't. We just focus on the present, taking one day at a time. Just like Stacy did.

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Harvest Day

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The romaine and spinach have been harvested. My little planters are bare again. Since it's been a little chilly, I'm going to start a few seeds inside before transferring them to the patio garden.

These baby lettuces were so fresh and so green and so crisp and so delicious. I'm craving more already. My salad dressing of choice is pretty simple, too. Sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground cracked pepper and a squeeze of a lemon. That's it.

Like summer on my fork. I can't wait for the radishes!

Saving You From the Worst Wedding Ever

My wedding was a disaster from the start. It was rushed and ill-planned to spare us a trip back to Europe for another visa. Not only did I not get what I would call a real wedding, I believe it also set the tone for the marriage. 

We got married on Valentine's Day, in a torrential rainstorm, at night, on the beach, during Red Tide, with one flashlight and one gas lantern. There wasn't a dry eye in that shoddy little cabana, mainly due to the burning sea air. I cried, not because I was marrying someone I loved, but because it was all so awful. My friends and family were amazing to have been there and to have weathered the worst wedding I've ever been to...my own.

So, if I could have a do-over, I'd handle things much differently. Here are five ways I hope will save you from having the worst wedding ever.

1. Mother Nature always wins. She just does. So making sure I had a flexible back-up plan would have been key. When you choose the date of your wedding, head over to Weather.com to check out the stats on potential weather challenges. Then think about options. Umbrellas? Tents? Rain slickers? Gloves? Goggles? Scuba gear?

2. Wear a Wedding Dress. Mine was a red bridesmaid's dress that I wore again that summer to my sister's wedding. Yes, it was red. I'm sure there are plenty of brides out there who want to wear red. I didn't, but also didn't have time to buy anything just for me for the day. I regret that. I wish I had worn a dress that really showed off my personality and style. Please wear a dress that is YOU; a dress that fits you and suits your style and is something you feel delicious in. BHLDN is Anthropologie's wedding shop and they take the cake in my opinion.

3. Decorate Your Venue. Having a wedding in a beach cabana is nice, but not doing anything to make it festive is taboo. Looking back, we could have placed candles in hurricane glass all around and it would've warmed up the night and provided much needed light. Think about how the decor can amplify the natural beauty of your venue. Maybe a simple garland of flowers would work to personalize the space, or just a few potted plants. You can fit plants and greenery into any budget. Use the surrounding landscape as your storehouse. Choose branches, blossoms, and vines from the location to bring the outdoors inside. Strings of white lights work well for lighting. Make sure they're good for indoor and outdoor use. 

4. Gifts for Guests. Your friends and family have traveled to see you and celebrate with you. Show them you're grateful by putting a little gift basket in their hotel room. Fill a basket with local foods and treats, a map, something uniquely you to share with them and thank them for coming to your wedding. I wish I'd done this. My friends traveled from all over and I wish I'd had something sweet waiting for them when they got to town.

5. Photos. I had a couple of people take a few snaps of the day but nothing that really was frame-worthy. We should have had a photographer there. I might have made the day better for myself and for others just by having it styled for photos. (Although I don't know what a photographer could do with wet hair and windswept guests.) Style Me Pretty is a great inspiration for wedding photos.

It's true what they say, that the day goes by so quickly that at the end of it you struggle to remember the details. Planning makes it so much better. I think, too, that preparation makes the day less stressful for everyone, which is a perfect way to enter a marriage...having fun and not sweating the small stuff.

Pigs Root Forward, Chickens Scratch Back

Here it is...2013. Day 5. Can you believe it? I can't. As a start to the year, I'm working on a new flavor and a new kind of candy to add to the shop. I've made a list of things I'd like to accomplish this year. Last year was jam-packed (no pun intended) with activity and I'm thrilled to have learned so much and completed so many to-dos. 

Many people choose to make plans instead of resolutions. I'm that kind of girl. So, here's my list for 2013.

  1. Be patient with myself and with others. - I have issues with control. (Surely I'm not alone in this.) Now that I'm more conscious of blocked goals, I'm realizing that most of my frustration comes from my impatience with others. They don't do what I would do. Being aware of that and letting go is really going to be tough.
  2. Learn how to sew. - Finding clothes that really suit my personality isn't easy. I want to start making my own clothes. First, though, I'm going to start with an apron, since I use those every day.
  3. Write every day. - I love to write and tell stories. Eventually, I'd like to do more of that than anything else. Practice can only help.
  4. Share what I have learned. - In my 41 years, I've done more than many people twice my age. Ever studied karate at a dojo in Japan? I have. Ever climbed to the top of a mountain in Poland? I have. I think sharing these experiences with others will be a reminder of those moments and work as a record-keeper of the events that shaped who I've become.
  5. Make a move. - Maybe this move is to a new country or city. Perhaps it's just into a storefront or a commercial kitchen. It's stepping out of my comfort zone and committing to follow my dream. Knowing that my dreams change all the time, this is particularly challenging. One day I want to teach English in Spain, the next I want to own a goat farm in upstate New York. I guess I just want to try it all.

What have you planned for the year?