Cooking to Clear My Head

My head is just spinning from everything that happened last week. I look at my poor boy (see previous post) and the matted hair on his legs that are tinged red because of the blood. I look at his nose that is clotted with blood and I just feel nothing but pain. The vet told me today that clotting is good so I just keep his nose clear enough to breathe. No big test results back yet; hopefully they will know something tomorrow.

I spoke with my friend who is a nurse and she explained what could be causing his low platelets. While his eating has slowed down (probably from the yucky blood taste in his mouth), his tail still wags and he looks bright in his eyes.

BUT….on to my day.

To get my mind off of things, I decided I needed to clean up my frig and freezer. And what I mean by that is, I needed to get those old bananas baked up; I needed to use the pumpkin that I baked earlier this month; I needed to make something with the fresh corn that I froze. It was going to be a baking/creating day.

I used a base quick bread recipe and then added my mix-ins. The base recipe is as follows:

  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. oil
  • 4 eggs

Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and any spices; set aside.

Combine the sugar and oil; mix until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Slowly add the dry ingredients.  Beat for 2 minutes.

Depending on the type of bread you are making, will determine when you add your mix-ins. If you add pumpkin or bananas, add to the wet ingredients before adding your flour mixture. If adding chocolate chips, raisins (dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc…) or nuts, add after the flour mixture.

Your main add-ins should equal 2 cups: 2 cups bananas (6 medium), 2 cups pumpkin, 2 cups, applesauce, or any combination there of. You can then add nuts, chocolate chips, raisins. Your spices should equal 2 teaspoons. (For the pumpkin muffins: add pumpkin pie spice, bananas: cinnamon and ginger) (And yes, I know that I do not have the popular KitchenAid Mixer but this was a Wedding Gift from my grandparents [previous post], so I cherish it)

This recipe made enough to be put in 3 – 10″ greased loaf pans. Bake for 50 minutes @ 325 degrees. I have a convection oven so you may have to adjust your baking times.

This recipe is not a sticky topped bread. The top has a nice crust on it which is what I prefer.

I was a busy girl; I made 10 large loaves and 11 small loaves of bread. My types were: Pumpkin, Banana, Banana Nut, Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip (I used the peanut butter as the oil and then added a little oil to get the correct consistency), Chocolate Chip – Dried Cherry(I adjusted this recipe and added milk to make the batter more moist since there were no moist additions. With this recipe, grease and flour the loaf pans).

                                                                                        I also made a 10 X 15 pan of Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting and a Chicken Corn Chowder.

I wish I would have done a better job with remembering the recipe for the Chicken Corn Chowder. I know I used 2.5 large chicken breasts that I cooked in water. In the same water I added fresh frozen corn (probably about 3 cups) and then added 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed. The spices I used were salt, pepper, coriander, dried mustard, minced onion and ground thyme. When the potatoes were cooked, I added 2 T. of butter and milk (1 or 2 cups). The only thing I would have done different is frying the potato cubes in oil so they would have stayed firmer. It was very good, don’t get me wrong but next time, I will get a crisp layer on the potatoes before putting them in the soup.

This all day cooking did help my mood. And while I know it meant nothing to Copper, since he was isolated at the time of my cooking, he does have a bounce in his step that he hasn’t had for a few days. I heard him bark today which hasn’t happened for a while.

My head is definitely getting cleared and my family has a lot of home cooked food to bring them comfort. I hope that this is all good karma and news will come tomorrow from the laboratories. If not, I still have 2 cups of pumpkin and probably 3 cups of bananas that I can create some more …maybe a black bean pumpkin soup or a Cuban black bean banana something; my choices are endless. I hope that I can create out of love instead of stress on my next baking/cooking day.

I will keep you updated.

(View from my kitchen window)


It Takes a Little Kneading



There are many things that I do for my family, friends and people who I do not even know. One thing that I enjoy doing for others is cooking/baking. While I like the process of taking not very good tasting ingredients by themselves (have you ever tasted plain flour or vegetable shortening, YUCK!) and making them into something that tastes divine, my joy is in the act of giving. I feel that this is one thing that I do well; people can enjoy this gift and it can nourish them both physically and emotionally. Is there a favorite food that you had growing up that when you have it now it takes you back years?

When my family smells those warm, sweet fragrances wafting from the oven, their first question is, “Is this for us, or is it for someone else?” I have to admit that more than 50% of the time, it is for someone else. I do feel guilty and there have been times when I make twice as much so they can enjoy some for themselves.

There is one smell that drifts out the kitchen and throughout our home that everyone knows is for no one else but them, bread. When that light, fresh smell melds in with the other familial scents in our home, they know it is for them and only them.

I have now gotten to the point that I make fresh bread every four or five days. It is the most basic of recipes, milk, bread four, salt, pepper, butter and yeast. How can you go wrong with that? What I have started doing is using the white spongy dough as my canvas. An artist would never leave a canvas blank. It is filled with life, their joys, and sorrows, or poured out on that blank slate. I would not say that I have gone that far, no sorrow in my bread making but I have used a lot of love and joy in this new venture.

Sometimes my bread has a theme. One loaf I named “Four Shades of Red.” (Had a hard time visualizing gray bread!) Then there are breads that are themed based on the week. There was a loaf in honor of the beginning of fall. Then there was the purple and white loaf in recognition of the high school‘s homecoming. My last loaf was orange, white and black in anticipation of Halloween. I did make a completely orange loaf of bread. The family was not very fond of that. They definitely prefer multi-colored bread.

You would think that I would have thought of this when my children were younger. How fun it would have been for them to pick out their colors for their special loaf of bread. But NOOOOO, I had to wait until they were in high school. They have a lot of fun with it though and sometimes they will ask me why I chose the colors I did. It should be noted that my children take a sack lunch to school. With the new government guidelines on school food, they say that the meals are bland and not filling. They relish the thought of taking their own food, chosen for their likes, to school. This also means that all of their friends, classmates and teachers see their artistry bread. (Notice I did not say artisan.) Teachers have walked up to them and asked, “What is wrong with your bread?” My son commented back when asked that question, “My mom is just bored.”

The funny thing is that I am far from bored. It takes a lot of extra time to knead in those colorings. I don’t use gloves so I can go a couple of days with colored hands. While to save time I do use a machine for kneading the bread, I do the last kneading and forming by hand and then bake it in the oven. This does take time out of my already busy schedule. But they are more than worth it.

I do this out of love. If my family didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t continue. They know that I do this especially for them. If they did not know that or appreciate it, I would still bake bread but it would probably be plain ol’ white bread. I would find something that they did appreciate. I would find a gift that would make them feel special. I have thought about marketing my artist bread but realized it would no longer be special for them.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. You can bet there will be more brown, gold and orange bread and green and red bread. I will probably even make blue and white bread as a recognition for Hanukkah. I may have high schoolers for children but I am still that mom who wants to make her family feel special. While I may bake a lot for others, I have found this one thing that is exclusively for them.

What do you do that is exclusively for your loved ones?  Do you have traditions that are a treasure for you? Let’s talk about that. I will share in my next post family traditions from when I was growing up to traditions that have been created for my family. Think hard and I look forward to sharing.

Believe it or not I have only made coffee twice this week. That is why there have been no coffee posts. It is mid afternoon so my first cup of coffee for the day, may have to contain some Irish Creme. I’ll let you know.

Bread ingredients:   4 C. bread flour, 13 oz. warm milk, 2 T butter, 2.5 T sugar, 1.5 t. salt and 2.25 t. active dry yeast.