"Commentary from the Countryside"
Thoughts on current events,
history, homesteading, preparedness, real food, and anything else I find interesting, from a cranky, middle-aged woman's common-sense perspective.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Balancing Act

It's a life-long process, I think, to learn to slow down and count your blessings, and yet not lose sight of your responsibilities.  Sometimes I'll successfully walk that tightrope for months or weeks at a time; sometimes it seems like I'm riding an op-yop.  Yes, I played with one as a kid!  For those who don't remember, here's a page:  http://www.op-yop.com/.  I was always fascinated by the oscillating pattern of the strings between the discs, and the long-buried memory suddenly surfaced when I was thinking of ways to describe the craziness.  Now I'm wondering what it means when a childhood toy is described as "vintage", "antique" or "extinct"?  Ok, I probably don't want an answer to that!

There's been some more experiments in the kitchen this week, a little work towards making the house a bit more energy efficient; and a reminder put on the calender to check the propane tank!

The best out of the kitchen this week was strawberry-beer bread.  Most people make a funny face at the thought, but it is actually reallyreally good!  The recipe called for cherry stout and dried cherries.  Having neither, I substituted a bottle of Winter Ale found hiding in the back of the fridge, (no idea how long it's been there, the back of the fridge is a dark and scary place!) and dried strawberries from my pantry stash.  It smelled amazing while baking, and made the best roast beef sandwich I've ever had.  Here's the recipe out of the "Biggest Book of Bread Machine Recipes"  with my adaptations:

                                                                Fruit and Beer Bread

(My machine does 1 1/2 lb loaves, and I used the basic white bread cycle instead of the whole grains cycle)

1 cup cherry stout  (I used 1 1/2 cups Winter Ale)
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp butter
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried savory
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
1/2 cup dried tart cherries (I used 2/3 cup dried strawberries)

I added the ingredients in the order called for in the bread machine manual and plugged it in.  I'm not sure how to adapt the recipe for a hand-kneaded bread.  I always watch as the machine kneads the dough, and add liquid or flour as needed to get a good dough ball that holds together but doesn't stick to the sides of the pan.  For some reason this recipe needed a lot of extra liquid. 

I used some of this bread for breakfast this morning, topped with a fried egg and a slice of cheese.  Wow!
Another experiment was home-made Wheat Thins.  They're my favorite crackers, but terribly expensive, and containing hydrogenated oils.  I poked around online and found some recipes, and here's what I started
with from the e-how site: 

Rolling out the dough

                    Home-made Wheat Thins
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350F.

Stir together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl.  Pour the oil and water into mixture; mix until just blended. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough dough no thicker than 1/8 inch.  Place dough on an ungreased baking sheet. Mark squares of with a knife or pizza cutter. Don't cut all the way through. Prick each cracker with a fork a few times; brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in preheated oven, or until crisp and light brown. Allow to cool just enough to handle then remove from baking sheet and separate into individual crackers.

I used the whole wheat flour to dust when rolling out, it gives a nice nutty flavor but I used a little too much.  Next time I'll use less and roll out in wax paper.  I wasn't able to get the dough down to 1/8 inch (so I have Wheat Fats) but the flavor and texture is very good.  I would also score the dough pretty much all the way through, it was difficult to break them apart cleanly.

I also put together the cheddar biscuit mix purchased when a friend had a "Tastefully Simple" party.  Not worth it.  I'm going to experiment with another set of online recipes for this one.

The weather continues unseasonably warm.  Everything is brown and muddy and dreary.  It's like living through mid-March over and over and over again.  My senses are confused.  The angle of the sun, the position of Orion, and the colors at sunset tell me it's Winter; yet the smell of the wet earth, the browns of the fields, and the feel of the air tell me it's Spring.  It's really disconcerting.  I long for the fresh cleanliness of snow, crisp, clear air, and a landscape lit in silvers and blues.  Though I've read there's a brutal winter hitting parts of Europe; I wouldn't wish that on us here, and I pray that the extreme cold they're dealing with is over soon.

In the meantime I've been reading about window quilts and gathering fabric to make some for my living room windows, and taking advantage of the weather to load up some more scrap metal.  Thankfully the truck continues to start!  I haven't allowed myself to start the next jigsaw puzzle yet; it will be my reward for cleaning up and stacking the firewood, but I did get the recently completed one ready to frame.  I've found the best way for preserving my puzzles is not to use the puzzle glue and cover them from the front.  Instead I very carefully use a large sheet of cardboard to flip the completed puzzle upside down, and then apply ordinary contact paper to the back.  This keeps all the pieces in place for framing, without the warping effects of the glue.

Until next time, may God bless each of you with warmth and peace.


  1. I love Wheat Thins, too. I think I will probably enjoy Wheat Fats just as much! ~smile~

    I know what you mean about your senses being confused by this weather. I feel the same way. We are getting cheated out of those cold, crisp evenings. I feel like all the shovels and sleds should be put back in the barn and the lawnmower checked to make sure it's ready for use. Ugh!

    Hey, is that your fireplace? Very pretty.

  2. Hmmm, I'm older than you, and I don't remember op-yops. Wonder if they didn't make it over to the west side of the state ... ?

    I have a recipe for cheddar biscuits - I'll have to bring it with me the next time I come visit, and we'll give them a try ...

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  4. Hey Melissa, bet you need the winter stuff back out tonight! Yep, that's my fireplace, the best feature of the house. I love it.
    Kat, I'm looking forward to trying your recipe. And how did you miss out on op-yops? You were deprived!