Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dangerous: This Recipe Endangers Your Waistline

Last week, on the advice of a friend, I tried out a use for the plethora of feral dill growing in my parents' "garden" patch. I knew you could use dill in dill pickles (maybe that's where they got the name?), but I'd never discovered another use for it. And I sure wasn't making dill pickles with the four or five minuscule cucumbers I got from my garden. Her suggestion? Dill bread.

My dad looked up several recipes on the internet and I chose to use the Taste of Home one because I really like their recipes. You can look up the original here: However, being the wild, free spirit that I am, I modified it quite a bit.

1. I increased the water to 1 cup, since I left out the cottage cheese and the egg. I am by no means a vegan, but I like to keep my dairy consumption to a minimum and save it for where it really counts, like cake or Doritos!

2. It calls for 1/4 cup fresh dill, but I might have had slightly more than that. There was just so much bounty to be used!

3.I didn't have dill seed, so that was left out, and I added in a teaspoon of onion powder because one of the other recipes called for it and everything is better with a little onion flavor. Except most desserts.

I mixed the dough as the recipe directed; I really like that this recipe doesn't need to be kneaded, which makes for a much simpler preparation. But the dough is VERY sticky and hard to work with. The recipe says to dump it in a round pan and let it rise in there, but I wanted a more decorative presentation, so I made a twist. Challenging, but doable. After it came out of the oven, I brushed it with margarine for a shiny finish.

After rising and baking, it was time for the critical taste test. Oh, my! It was sooooooooooo delicious. Like a dill pickle, only with carbs! The texture was great; moist and chewy on the inside and crisp and crackling on the outside. The basic recipe will lend itself nicely to a number of variations such as rosemary, basil and sun-dried tomato, jalepeno, and my personal favorite, kalamata olive. I can't wait to try them all. But maybe I'd better pace myself a little!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Now Dead, Summer is Buried

Even though we were promised that we could expect the first hard freeze around September 15 on a bad year, September 12 found us with a frost advisory for the nights of the 13th and 14th. At first they were predicting temps dropping into the lower 30's, but by the time the cold front arrived, the predicted lows were all the way down to 26.

Grrrrrrrrrr! This is not acceptable, people! I have a garden here!

After a very late planting due to the heavy rains, my tomatoes were just barely beginning to turn orange on a few of them. I was so not ready for them to pass this mortal coil. If it had been a solid block of bad weather, I could have gritted my teeth and given in, but after only 2 days, the temps were supposed to head back into the 70's in the day and high 40's at night. If I could just get them through it!

My flower pots were easy, they could just be moved inside until the cold snap was over. And I would have a very aromatic entryway from all the herbs. Not much walking space, but it would smell great.

Tuesday night was the first night of freeze, and the worst. I rushed home from Williston, arriving shortly before sundown and dashed up to the attic to get blankets. I took pictures of my flowers and garden in case this was the last time I ever got to see them, then covered them over with warm, fluffy comforters and sheets of plastic.

Now shrouded in fabric, my rows of vegetables were fitting symbols of the corpse of summer. I felt like I should hold a wake or something, but instead went off to bed to have nightmares of dead tomatoes.

They seemed to survive the first night, but had one more to go before they would be in the clear. Yesterday I uncovered them to find that the tops of the hardier plants, tomatoes included were slightly singed where they'd touched the blankets, but other than that they were fine. The broad leaf plants such as the squash were pretty trashed, but have a few of the younger leaves left. Hopefully enough to keep the plants going another couple weeks. Then it will be time to say good-by for another year.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Last Gasp of Summer

On Labor Day, the kids had the genius idea to go swimming after our Labor. Fine with kept them motivated, and it would be nice to celebrate the last few days of summer before we descend into months of white despair. We piled into the car as the shadows lengthened, and hurried out to Skjermo to swim before dark.

Noni was unable to come because I had the extra seat out of the van, but all four of the kids were ready and eager to enjoy a little cooling swim. We pulled up to the lake and all the kids jumped out. I stopped to gather my things, and by the time I turned around Devon was already done with his swim.

He had run to the water and jumped off the dock, being of the philosophy that it's better to get it all over with at once. There were a couple fatal flaws with his belief system this time, however. One was that even though the days had still been warm, the chilly nights seemed to be having a...chilling...effect on the water.

The other was that Devon has about .00001 percent body fat. If he had gone down with the Titanic, he would have been one of the first ones to go. So he has NO protection against cold temperatures, which is why he was already out of the water by the time I saw him. No amount of cajoling could persuade him to try again, and he spent the rest of the time fishing with some guys down on the dock. Every now and again, we'd hear a shrill little voice calling,

"No way! I'm not getting in THAT cold water again!"

The rest of us were made of, er, sturdier stuff (nothing wrong with OUR body fat levels!), so we managed to stay in longer. I even got all the way wet, after letting my lower half lose all feeling so I would only suffer half as much.

The other kids kept saying through clenched jaw and shivering lips, "It's not that bad once you get all the way wet! Then you get used to it." More like your nerves simply give up in despair and decide to let you freeze if you're stupid enough to submerge yourself in liquid ice for the fun of it.

After my obligatory dip to prove that I wasn't a sissy, I sat on the dock and enjoyed myself while the kids had Fun With Hypothermia. I wouldn't let them go past where they could touch, because I had NO interest in having to jump in to try to save any of them!

In a few minutes, even those polar die-hards became tired of having their toes fall off one by one and came ashore. I took pictures of Tiggy while the other kids joined Devon in his fishing exploits, by which I mean the other kids stood around and complained that Devon wouldn't share the fishing pole.

As a final ode to summer, I took a picture of my tanned and happy legs before I put them away for the winter. Oh, wait, maybe not that tanned after all! Hey, not all of us were made to have pigment, OK?

All in all, it was a fun end to a fun summer, and just in the nick of time, too, 'cause I have 0 interest in swimming now that we've been having nights dipping down into the 20's. Unless of course I decide to try it once the ice has formed. Hmmmm. We'll see...

Monday, September 12, 2011

8th Grade Graduation in the Nick of Time

Caleb was out for a week's visit the first week of September. His classwork starts a little later than most schools, so he had a precious few days left of his summer vacation and decided to spend it hanging with his peeps. And I had a precious few days left to pull together his promised graduation celebration before he started high school (it just loses some of its specialness when you're already in the next grade). Of course, I could have waited, oh, about 4 more years and combined events with his high school grad, but I don't think Caleb would have gone for that plan. Don't know why not...much more efficient that way!

Part of the festivities was to be special cupcakes for potluck at church, so Friday found me looking around to find the ingredients. Should I drive 30 minutes into the nearest large town to find them? No, I'll just pick them up at the little market in Westby. Only problem was that they didn't have half of what I needed, and some of the rest was too pricey for my thrifty soul to purchase. ($5 for a package of cookies!?) I did what I could without violating my cheap conscience, but there would be no puppy cupcakes. Sad face.

That's OK, I totally ran out of time to make them anyway! I do think the owl cupcakes turned out well, though they don't look as good as the picture in the magazine. But when do they ever? Never around here at any rate!

[If you are interested in how to make them, the eyes are opened Oreos (or if you are too cheap like me, opened "sandwich cookies"), the beak is a Reese's peanut butter bit turned on its side, the eyeballs are Reese's bits, and the graduation cap is a squashed gum drop cut into the right shape. Simple, but time consuming.]

Saturday night we gathered at my parents' house for the rest of the big day. Tiggy was so kind as to do the decorations, and I must say she did a splendid job. I felt the medicated pineapple was a nice touch.

After some tasty snacks (that did not involve anything overly sweet since I had a cold at the time, and if I don't want sweets, nobody gets sweets!), we watched that old, old, ancient classic movie, "The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming." By then, it was so late that Caleb had to open presents the next morning before heading back to school. Lucky Caleb to have a graduation celebration spanning two whole days!

Caleb modeling one of his gifts. I'm having to remember to buy in mens' sizes now!