wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Focaccia Bread

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. sugar

2 cups warm water

1 envelope dry yeast (7 g), or 2 tsp. fast rising yeast

5 cups plain flour

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

You can make the dough the old-fashioned way, or if you have a bread machine, you can put in the wet ingredients, followed by the dry ingredients, and put the yeast on top of the flour. Then use the dough setting to mix the ingredients and let them rise in the machine.

After the dough is mixed and set aside to rise (or the machine is doing all this for you), crush a clove of garlic into 1/3 cup of olive oil.

In a separate bowl, place two medium white onions, thinly sliced, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and set aside.

When the dough is ready, having risen in a bowl or in the bread machine, punch down the dough  and divide it in half. Roll out each piece to make 30 x 25 cm rectangles (it works out to cover two of my smaller baking sheets). Place on the greased baking sheets. Cover and let stand  about 15 minutes.

At this point, preheat the oven to 450 F.

Using the handle of a wooden spoon, press indentations all over the dough about a half inch (or 1 cm) deep. Brush the dough all over with garlic oil and sprinkle with half the onion mixture on each baking sheet.

Bake at 450 F for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Cut into pieces to serve.

If you freeze it later on, you can take out what you need and put it in the toaster.

The batch in this picture could have been done a minute or so longer to be more golden brown, but it is still good.

Goes very well with any soups or stews, or just as a snack with a piece of cheese. It’s perfect with a glass of white wine.

If you don’t like garlic, you can substitute and sprinkle some chopped rosemary onto the dough before baking.


41 Comments

Hazelnut/Almond Pie Bars

This post is a repeat of one from June of 2018 (pre-Covid) but I’m still baking these almond pie bars because they’re so quick and easy to do. It works well if you have company coming, any time of year, or if you just feel you want to indulge yourself.

Here it is again. I just made a batch today but I used hazelnuts instead of almonds because that was what I had on hand. Also, I added some shredded coconut in the batter and on top.

This is a very easy recipe (ingredients listed at the end), but I have to warn you, it is really sweet. I cut back on some of the sugar and it is still sweet.

*** You can easily use half the sugar or less and it will still be good. I’ve tried it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First, put into your food processor, 2 cups of white flour, 1/2 cup of icing sugar, and a cup of butter. Pulse it a few times to cut the butter into the flour mixture so it is evenly mixed and is the texture of soft sand.

Put the mixture into a 9 by 13 baking dish (I like my glass one), and gently but firmly press the mixture down to flatten it. This will be the crust which will resemble shortbread. No need to grease the pan.

While the crust is in the oven baking for 10 to 15 minutes (until it is just turning a pale golden brown), chop one cup of almonds (or you can use already sliced almonds).

Break four eggs into a measuring cup and whisk them around with a fork. Add 2 cups of sugar (I put much less and I had to substitute some brown sugar because I ran out of white), the cup of chopped almonds, 1/3 cup of corn syrup (you could probably use honey), 1/2 cup of melted butter, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla or lemon or whatever you want).

Pour into the food processor and give it a couple of pulses. Then check on your crust to see if it is golden brown yet.

Take the baking pan out of the oven and be ready to pour the egg and almond mixture onto the hot crust.

As soon as you have the liquid mixture poured onto the crust, put the baking dish back in the oven, still on 350, and bake for another 25 to 28 minutes.

When the time is up, the topping should be a rich golden brown and be slightly puffy. This will collapse in a few minutes as it cools, and that’s fine. It’s what you want it to do.

As soon as you can no longer stand to wait, pour yourself a cup of coffee (or tea), and cut some squares from the pan of almond bars.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Crust –

2 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar)

1 cup butter

Topping –

2 cups sugar (I think it’s way too much…)

1 cup chopped almonds

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup melted butter

1/3 cup corn syrup (or honey?)

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

 

The finished squares freeze well on a paper plate inside a ziploc freezer bag. Funny thing is though, they disappear quickly no matter where you store them.

 

 

 


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Saving Seeds

It’s that time of year when the leaves of squashes die and the squashes are lying around waiting to be picked.

I think this one is called a green egg squash.

A friend gave us several varieties of squash last autumn  when he harvested his garden. They were so good that I decided to try growing some myself the next growing season. I saved the seeds of the gift squashes and planted them this spring.

I was thrilled to see the seeds sprout and turn into little squash plants. It wasn’t long before they were big squash plants. Then squashes grew where yellow flowers had attracted some bees. I was so happy to see the babies of the gift squashes growing in my garden.

It was time to harvest them and I saved the seeds of the second generation. Next spring I’ll plant those and hope to grow a third generation of these green egg squashes.

They are so tasty. I like to cook them two different ways. One way is to cut the squashes in half and peel them. Then I slice them into one-inch pieces that look like a crescent moon. I put all the pieces in the microwave for three or four minutes while I sautee some chopped onions in butter in a frying pan. Then I place the crescent-shaped pieces of squash in the pan with the onion bits and fry them to a golden brown colour.

The other way is more traditional. No peeling necessary, but I give the squash a good wash. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, clean the seeds out of the center, and cut each half crosswise.  Paint the inside surfaces with melted butter, sprinkle on salt and pepper, and bake at 350, peel side down, until the squash is tender. Depending on the size of the squash, it may take 45 minutes to an hour. I cover mine with tin foil for the first half hour. If they need more baking time, just keep the heat to them until they are tender.

I’m looking forward to planting the next generation of these squashes.

I have another kind of squash that a friend in Montana gave us in 2015. I saved those seeds and have kept them going year after year ever since. That was a buttercup squash. Here is a picture of one of its descendants.

Not only is it fun to watch continuing generations of plants growing, but saving seeds is a good habit to get into. You never know when we may have hard times ahead.


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Oyster Mushrooms

We had a nice surprise today. A friend had been out in the woods picking oyster mushrooms and had a bunch to give us.

I’ve picked chanterelles but I didn’t know much about oyster mushrooms so I’ve never picked them. With mushrooms, you can’t take chances because many kinds of mushrooms have lookalikes and many of those can make you very sick (or worse).

So here is a picture the friend took to show us how they grow. See them there on the trunk of that dead alder tree?

The pictures were all taken by my friend with his phone, except for the two photos in my kitchen.

If you thought mushrooms always grow on the ground, think again. Here they are again, going way up the tree.

They almost look round like a tennis ball, but if you look carefully, you’ll see that they are flat and often seem to grow overlapping each other.

Because they are off the ground, they are much easier to clean than chanterelles.

I just took a pastry brush and cleaned off a few specks of dirt. No need to wash them and make them soggy.  My dryer has five layers so I filled those up with the flat mushrooms and gave my attention to the rest of them which, temporarily, are spread out on a couple of baking sheets. (They are not going to be baked.)

I put a tiny bit of butter in a pan and put the mushroom pieces in it. This is just the start of what I put in the pan. I filled the pan enough so the whole bottom of the pan is filled. One thing I learned is that it is much easier to tear oyster mushrooms than to cut them.

Once they were sauteed just until they were cooked through, I put them in a big bowl to cool off while I cooked the next batch. After the sauteed mushrooms were all cool, I put them into plastic tubs and froze them. The sauteeing ensures that the mushrooms are not rubbery when you thaw them out to add to stir fries or gravy or whatever dish you want them to be in.

A couple of the bigger pieces were perfect for adding to a sandwich. So good!

If you find the energy to go out into the woods to look for mushrooms, you might be rewarded with the sighting of a large animal – at least the sight of its hind end. I’ll spare you the guesswork – it’s an elk.

Paved road, wildlife viewing, and a load of mushrooms for dinner. What could be better?


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Lemon Posset

This dessert is so good that I could eat it every day, except that I would soon weigh 400 lbs. But it’s worth making once in a while for a special treat. It’s VERY easy.

On the Internet, I’ve found several recipes for making lemon posset, but I’ve ended up only following the basic rules and coming up with something that works for me.

You’ll need a lemon (the grated rind, and then later we’ll add the juice), some sugar, and whipping cream (not whipped).

 

Measure  two cups of the heavy cream in a big pyrex measuring cup and make sure it is exactly two cups.

Pour it into a saucepan.

Add 3/4 cup of white sugar (don’t skimp on it).

Add the finely grated rind of one lemon.

Stirring constantly, bring the cream mixture to a simmer. Continue to stir to prevent burning, and keep the mixture simmering on a low heat.

Here is where the recipes vary a lot. Some say simmer it for 3 minutes; others say anything up to 22 minutes. I took the middle and simmered the mixture for about 15 minutes, stirring the whole time. Then to check whether the cream has boiled down to the right amount, pour the mixture back into the measuring cup. Having added sugar, we’ve been simmering more than two cups of liquid, so we need to make sure it has been reduced to two cups again. If it is more than two cups, pour it back into the saucepan and let it simmer a bit longer. When you have exactly two cups of liquid, strain the cream mixture into the measuring cup or another bowl if you like. (I prefer the measuring cup because I can pour the liquid into the dessert dishes better from it).  The strainer will take out the bits of lemon rind that you’ve had in the cream mixture for flavour.

Then stir the juice of one large lemon (about 1/3 cup) into the cream mixture.

Let the cream mixture cool for about 15 minutes and then pour it into 6 small ramekins (or into fancier glass containers if you like). Make sure it is cool enough if you are using fine crystal dishes.

Set the dishes in the fridge to chill and set. Later you can add drizzle or toppings of your choice. Fruit works well. In the last one I made, I used a drizzle of blackberry juice thickened with a bit of cornstarch and sugar. Then I added what I had handy – some sliced kiwi and strawberries (these had been frozen because it is the wrong season for fresh strawberries).

If you like fruit on the dessert, you could also use some canned peaches, pears, or cherries. Whatever you have handy and appeals to your taste buds, works fine on this dessert. Use only small amounts. You are trying to add it more as a garnish. It is not meant to be a bowl of fruit.

It may seem that the portions are quite small, dividing the two cups of cream into six servings, but this dessert is so rich that you won’t need more than this amount. You’ll want more, but, trust me, you’ll find that it is enough.

You can chill this dessert in the fridge for a day ahead if necessary, but keep the dishes covered in plastic wrap.

Enjoy!

 

 


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American Thanksgiving

Just when you think things are so bad that you have nothing to be thankful for, along comes the Thanksgiving holiday to remind us of so many blessings in our lives.

I won’t begin to name any of the thousands of things we have to be thankful for. Each of us has a perspective uniquely our own. Some might be thankful for good health, while others in failing health are thankful for other things that they have come to appreciate. Some might be thankful for having lots of money, while others are just as happy with much less.  My own thought on that is ,”Money isn’t everything, but it sure helps.”

Whatever your circumstances allow, it’s important to make the most of the good things in life.

If you are lucky enough to be with friends or family on Thanksgiving, why not share some of the things you are truly thankful for.

H     Home for holidays is fine,

A     Appetizers, and some wine,

P     Pie dessert is understood,

P     Pumpkin’s always pretty good,

Y     Yams and taters fill the plate,

T     Turkey dinner would be great.

H     Happy family, sisters, brothers,

A     Aunts and uncles and their “others,”

N     No one needs to be left out,

K     Kinship’s what it’s all about.

S     So much to be thankful for,

G    Guests and family we adore.

I     It’s a happy time of year,

V    Valued friends that bring us cheer.

I     It’s a ritual affair,

N   Nothing else can quite compare,

G   Giving thanks for all we share.

 

In case you have trouble getting a turkey this year with all the supply chain problems just choose one of these Merriam’s wild turkeys I “shot” for you by the Missouri River.

 

To all my American friends and family, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving holiday.

 

 


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Easy Sandwich Buns

A bread machine can do more than just make bread. I haven’t made bread in it for ages. I’ve found that it’s quicker and easier to make flat buns. I’ll talk about the recipe at the end.

The advantages of making these buns instead of bread:

  • you can freeze the buns in ziplocs, six or eight to a bag and take out one or two as you need them
  • you don’t have half a loaf of bread that is less than fresh, sitting in the fridge
  • the buns are almost as fresh as if they were just out of the oven if you put the frozen bun in the microwave for 20+ seconds
  • they make great sandwiches
  • toast them if you want
  • you don’t use your bread machine for baking as much because you only use the dough setting, and so you prolong the life of your paddles and the “plastic” seals that seat them (you don’t bake the seals, which always seem to be the first to go in a bread machine).

 

When  the two hours of the dough setting have timed out and your dough is mixed and has risen, place the dough on a board and cut in half.

 

Press one half into a rectangle. You can use a rolling pin or just press with your hands. I just use my hands. Then cut the piece once lengthwise and then make cuts for eight pieces. Place those pieces on a buttered baking sheet. Do the same for the second piece of dough and place on a second baking sheet.

Whisk one whole egg in a small bowl. If my whisk isn’t handy I use a fork.

With a pastry brush, paint the beaten egg over the top of each bun. If you have a dog or cat, you might want to put that leftover egg in the microwave for a few seconds and after it cools, give them a treat.

After I brushed these buns with egg, I sprinkled cardamom and cumin on them, having ground some cardamom and cumin seeds in an old coffee grinder. I also sprinkled a few grains of coarse salt on the buns, but these are things that you can omit if they don’t suit your taste buds.  You can make up your own toppings to sprinkle on, or have none.

I put my oven on very low for a few minutes and then turn it off. When it is just barely warm, I place the two baking sheets in the oven to rise for about 20 minutes or so.

Then I take them out, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the buns, one sheet at a time, for 22 minutes each. If I had a bigger oven or a convection oven I might be able to bake both baking sheets at once, but you know your own oven and will be able to figure out what works for you.

 

For these buns, you can change the basic recipe and play around with your ingredients to suit your own preferences.

Basically:

2 cups of  lukewarm liquid

2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. honey (or sugar)

2 tsp. salt

5 cups flour

2 tsp. fast acting  (instant) yeast

*****

What I do:

I pour two cups of milk into a big measuring cup and put it in the microwave for two minutes.

Pour the milk into the bread pan in the bread machine.

Add the butter, salt, and honey.

Then, instead of using 5 cups of flour, I substitute for one of the cups of flour and use rolled oats, or Sunnyboy cereal, or cracked wheat, or whatever I feel like adding. Sometimes it’s a mixture of the above.

If I have them handy, I like to add a tablespoon of fennel seeds from my garden. I collect them in the fall and dry them, and they are so handy for baking or for adding to a mint tea.

On top of the flour, I add two teaspoons of the instant yeast.

*****

One last thing:

The buns work well for making garlic toast. Just cut a bun open as if you were making a sandwich, and then cut the two pieces in half. Spread with crushed garlic and butter. Toast under the broiler for a VERY short time. Use a timer, one minute at a time.

 

They also work really well for making paninis.

 


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First Dampish Days

A dampish day, but that’s okay,

The sky is overcast,

The garden’s wet, so I’m all set,

The watering chore is past.

 

A squirrel hops, he looks, and stops,

He chatters to my face,

Then turns to run and have more fun,

At some much safer place.

 

I pick a pear and am aware

That rabbits like to chew,

If fruit should fall to ground at all,

It’s nibbled through and through.

 

The garden thrives and gives up chives

To make a lovely sauce,

But not the squash, it was a wash,

Complete and total loss.

I’m glad that kale does not get stale,

It’s growing, slow but strong,

This healthy plant in soup just can’t

Make anything go wrong.

 

A lonely rose, so bravely grows,

And blooms its last few days,

But come next year, you must not fear,

Again, it will amaze.


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A Savoury Haircut

My savoury plant was in dire need of a haircut. I’m sure it thought its usual hairdresser had gone out of business with the lockdown following the Covid outbreak. Imagine its surprise when the hairdresser came along with her shears and gave it that long overdue cut.

When the leaves are dry, I’ll strip them from the stems and put them in a jar to use throughout the winter until next year’s crop is ready.

 

 

My tendrils grew so wild and free,

And I no longer looked like me.

My tresses dragged, my body sagged,

And every passing bug got snagged.

 

I knew I was in dire need,

I looked like hell, oh yes indeed.

So when the pruners clipped my hair,

Someone responded to my prayer.

 

They saved my growth for other use

And saved me from this rude abuse

My leaves when added to the food,

Impart great flavour when it’s chewed.

 

And I no longer look so wild,

With hair like some unruly child.

I now look pretty, tidied up,

The folks will taste me when they sup.

 

It’s how I pay the salon fee

A cut and set that pampered me.

I’m glad that I won’t go to waste

And give to food a lovely taste. 

 


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The Car Thief – a True Story

“The car sure is nicer to drive than my truck.” I relaxed into the velour seat back. “It’s like a luxury limousine.”

My mother-in-law smiled. “Harris loves his car. Keeps it in good condition.”

“He’s a real car buff, isn’t he?”

“Oh, yes. Always has been. Ever since we were married, sixty-six years ago,” Myrtle said. “He’s very fussy about his cars.”

“I’m surprised he let me drive it. But I guess he wants you to be comfortable .”

“That’s right. Now don’t take this the wrong way, but Harris thinks ladies shouldn’t have to ride in trucks, and I know you don’t have a choice.  But it is a long drive to Nanaimo and he thought we’d enjoy it more if we took his car.”

“It’s a treat to drive a car for a change. Feels like we’re floating along in a dream.” I was pleased that Harris trusted me to drive it. He had it all shined up on the outside and vacuumed inside. “You wouldn’t know it was ten years old. You still see lots of them around but not many in good shape like this one. It’s like a brand new car.”

“He spent hours on it yesterday,” Myrtle said.

“It’s our lucky day. Parking spot right by the door. Doesn’t look too busy yet either,” I said as I looked through the large plate glass window of our favorite bakery.

Lunch was delicious as always, and half an hour later, we came out of the bakery loaded down with bags of rye bread and buns.

“Hope I can still fit into some clothes after that lunch. Where would you like to shop first, Myrtle?”

“You lead the way. You always find good quality places to shop.”

“Hang on a sec,” I said. “Here. Can you hold the bread while I get the door for you?”  I fished Harris’s keys out of my purse. “I know one of these is for unlocking and the other is for starting the car,” I mumbled to myself as I fit one of the keys into the lock.

The door wouldn’t open. Myrtle stood by the car waiting patiently.

“Must be the other key. Don’t worry. I’ll have it open in a sec.” I flipped the keychain around and tried the second key. It too, was sticky going into the lock. “Maybe I had it upside down.” I turned it and again jiggled it in the lock. No luck. “That’s funny.…”

“Anneli. What does that man want?” Myrtle pointed at the bakery window.

A middle-aged man inside the bakery was leaning over the bench seat, banging on the window with the palm of his hand.

“I don’t know but he looks mad at us.  Why’s he pointing at the car?” I looked up at him with a puzzled frown.

“Now he’s pointing at himself.”

I looked at Harris’s keys, then at the angry man at the window. He was still pointing at the car and at himself. I turned to look at Myrtle and that’s when I saw it. Parked next to the vehicle I was trying to enter—Harris’s car.

*****

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