Thursday, March 31, 2011


Check out Emma's guest post over at City Roots, Country Life on making bread.  This is a great way to get started with cooking with food storage (even if what you are storing is flour), and to start rotating.

I made my first loaf of bread in grade 4, long before home economics classes would commence.  My teacher, Miss Drake, was a hippie at heart, and we learned all kinds of things that we might otherwise not have ever had the chance to do.  I certainly didn't learn bread-making in home-ec.

For many years, when the kids were both at home, I used to make bread twice a week, 7-8 loaves at a time plus, of course, pizza for the Friday night's supper.  I used to buy yeast in a large can, and had the whole process down to a science.  Into the bread sponge would go any compatible leftovers like potatoes, carrots, oatmeal...  Every batch was an adventure.

The best way to get good at making bread is to do it often.  People can tell you all about knowing when the bread has been kneaded enough because of the way it responds when you press your thumb into it.  But nothing is more gratifying then to suddenly realize as you eat a piece of warm bread out of the oven slathered in butter that this time you automagically knew when the bread dough was kneaded enough, and bowled it for rising, without thinking about it.  (Believe me, this is a milestone!)

When I first started making whole wheat bread, I was not terribly impressed with the taste.  It lacked something.  The problem was that I was merely substituting whole wheat flour for white flour in my recipes.  Bleh!  I discovered that I needed to add just a little more salt.  Not a whole lot, but some.  Where I would use a tsp of salt for a batch of white bread, I needed 2 tsps if the bread was entirely made with whole wheat bread, or 1 1/2 if it was going to half and half white flour and whole wheat flour.

My recipe?  The basic French bread:

  • 2 tbsp dry yeast
  • 2-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 6+ cups flour
  • 1 to 2 tsp. salt (depending on the type of flour(s) used)
  • 1 tsp. oil
Combine the sugar, yeast and warm water in a large pre-warmed bowl. Let it rest about 1 minute.  Add the salt and the oil.  Start adding the flour, one cup at a time, stirring it in throughly.  When you reach the point where it's getting hard to stir in the flour, turn it out on your floured kneading surface, and keep working in the flour until it has reached the right consistency; you'll know it's right when you smooth it into a ball, press your thumb in gently, and the dough rises back out of the dent as you remove your thumb.

Oil a bowl, and your dough; put the dough in the bowl, cover and set to rise in a warm place.  For me, this is inside the microwave after using it to heat a cup of water for 1 minute.

Let the dough rise until doubled in size, usually 45 to 75 minutes.  Plenty of time to clean up the prep area, have a cup of tea and move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer (yeah, I had a routine).

Once the dough is doubled in size, turn it out on your kneading surface, punch the dough down and knead it for a few turns, and shape it back into a ball.  Throw a cloth over it, and get your loaf pans ready.  A light coating of oil to help the loaf slip out readily at the end of the baking time is nice.  Some people use cooking spray.  Sometimes I would use a cookie sheet and make a proper French loaf or baguette, and sprinkle a little cornmeal on the sheet.

Now, divide the dough up for the loaves.  The dough will not fill up the loaf pans at this point, and you can also make buns, or put some aside for pizza dough.

Put the covered loaf pans in a warm place to rise until the dough fills the pans, about 1/2 an hour or so.  Preheat the oven to 375 F.  When the oven is completely heated up, uncover the loaf pans, and put them in the oven.  If the oven is crowded, after about 15-20 minutes you will want to rotate the pans so that they bake evenly.

They're done when you hear a hollow sound when you thump them.  That takes between 30-35 minutes.  Times depend on your oven and how hot it actually gets relative to how hot/cold it is in your kitchen and the levels of humidity.

For a fun bread recipe, check out Pretzel Bread at

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fear and Prepping in TV Land

I work in a call center as a retention agent for a large television service provider, and I have been seeing cracks in the walls of self-willed ignorance that many people shelter behind.  Times are tough and getting tougher, and people are looking to save money because what they have is not stretching near as far as it used to.  For many people, this means giving up TV. It's interesting though, how many people will accept a discount or cut back on how many channels they have instead of just going cold-turkey.  People think of television as a need. Or even as a right.

It's the nature of my job that I talk to a lot of people from every walk of life, and the more alert among them are frightened.  They see the writing on the wall, and can almost read it.  One lady I spoke with today used these very words:  "I'm frightened by what's going to happen next."  I really did want to tell her, cancel this vice, and put the money to better use.  She's not quite there yet.

Is it hypocritical to be working to persuade folks to spend money foolishly on entertainment when they could be prepping?  Perhaps.  I do admit, though, that I frequently point those who do cancel their TV to google "frugal" for help on saving money.  That's how I found prepping.  I believe that anyone who has the strength of mind to cancel mindless entertainment just might be ready to start prepping and seeing the world as it really is.

My two cent's worth?  Cut out the fluff, cancel every useless vice, and get ready for the downward spiral.  When the poop hits the fan, everyone will get hit.

That being said, I have TV for hubby who gets very testy when I try to force him to look at the writing on the wall.  He's barging through life with rose coloured glasses on and his hands over his ears shouting "La la la la la, I can't hear you."  (Literally, he really does do that).  Sigh!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Slow Recovery

Between work, coughing (hubby is sick too) and being glued to reports of the dire events in Japan, Libya and elsewhere, I haven't been posting.  I'm finally having a whole weekend off, and hope to get some urgent projects started at least.

I finally got one of the jar sealers for the Foodsaver that I order so I can start vacuum sealing my jars of dry goods (vegetable flakes, soup makings of various kinds, etc), and I have a couple of kilograms of blueberries cleaned and ready to go in the freezer that needs to be made into jam, and some herbs to get started in the window for hubby.  As he keeps tell me, a great chef like himself needs his own herb garden in the kitchen windowsill.  I believe it was wisdom on my part not to giggle at him.  I figure if he keeps practicing his culinary skills, he'll get better.  I hope.

My heart goes out to the folks in Japan.  For those most directly affected, the events of the last few weeks (has it really been that long?) will be with them for the rest of their lives and they are living through the kind of thing that a lot of us prepping for and hope will never happen.  I have family living outside of Tokyo, and it's a real worry to me.  As you can imagine, it's difficult to sleep sometimes.  Are they really okay?  Knowing that they were not directly harmed by the earthquake and that the tsunami didn't reach their neighbourhood is reassuring only to a point.  Reading that the tap water in Tokyo is contaminated, and unsafe for children, is truly frightening.

We haven't heard a whole lot about Haiti recently beyond the news that a devasting cholera epidemic has set in.  Innocent civilians are being killed as war heats up in Libya.  People are still trying to rebuild after the earthquakes in Chile and New Zealand, and the floods in Australia.  Truly, we have entered an age of catastrophe.

Living on the Pacific ring of fire as I do, earthquakes, volcanic activity and resultant tsunamis are actually some of the things I have to prep for.  So among my weekend projects is going to have to be revamping the BOBs and the EDC. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ukranian Cough Medicine

I cannot promise that this will cure your cold, but it sure tastes good....

Ukrainian Cough Medicine

2 cups vodka
2 lemons
2 whole heads garlic
1 cup honey

Squeeze the lemons, and put the juice (and pulp) into the vodka in a quart mason jar.  Warm the honey up if it's not the liquid kind so it will dissolve readily in the vodka.  Add to the vodka.  Set aside.  Break up the garlic heads into cloves, skin and mince the garlic.  Add to the vodka.  Put in a cool dark place and allow to meld for 1 week.

Dose: 1 tbsp.

(I have also used this as a marinade.  Tastes not bad.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cough, cough...

Yes, I am yet another victim of the whatever that's going around.  Cough, cough, cough.  It's getting tedious.  I bought some cough syrup, but it isn't helping. Gah, I need relief!

I searched the internet for homemade cough remedies, and most seem to employ honey and/or lemon juice and/or garlic/ginger/freshly ground peppercorns.  I have an old Ukranian remedy that calls for vodka, honey, lemon juice and vast quantities of garlic.  I don't know if it really helps or not.  It tastes delicious, even when I can't taste much else.  It also causes a distinct garlicky odour problem after a few doses, right through the skin, and I really don't want to offend anyone. 

A nurse told me to put Vick's Vapor rub on my feet every night (covering with socks to prevent staining of the sheets).  It definitely helps when rubbed on the part of my chest not covered by mammary glands, and it helps keep the sinuses clear when rubbed on one's nose.  I don't know about putting it on my feet.  I tried it, and all I noticed was that my feet, and hence the rest of me, were very warm.

When I was a kid, Dad would give my brother and I a little tiny ball of eucalyptus ointment each to swallow when we had a cough.  It was nasty, nasty stuff, kind of like eating really thick Buckley's.  Well, I guess what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Right now, I'm sipping on hot lemonade with honey.  I took an antihistamine and some acetaminophen - that's my "generic" version of Neocitran.  All I need to figure out now is something to loosen the congestion.  Suggestions anyone?