Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sweet Rolls

I have been cooking squash. Almost every day, and in the most unique (for me) ways. I made a crisp, which turned out really nice. I got the recipe from Tasty Kitchen, part of The Pioneer Woman's website. So that got me to thinking, which is always a good thing. If I can turn squash into a crisp, why not turn them into sweet rolls? Yea, the wheels were turning, and I got out my family cookbook and started making a mess in the kitchen. Oh, sweet rolls. I love making sweet rolls. I think even more than eating them, if that's possible!
Luckily, I had a few squash just lying around. Pretty hard not to; you know, it's summer, we have a garden, I cook, friends know I cook, friends give us the stuff..........

Anyway, I peeled and chopped. Hey! I came. I peeled. I chopped. Ha! No? No. Ok then. On with the squash story! You see that dark green scalloped squash in the middle? It was waaaayyyy too tough for me to peel. I was actually afraid of either cutting myself, or breaking my peeler. My favorite peeler. So I gave it to the compost pile. The squash, not the peeler! It's not like I was throwing it away, just reusing it in a different manner. I'm cooking enough squash to make a batch of rolls and a crisp. But for now, I'll just give you directions for the rolls. Because I'm nice like that. Before I get too much further, let me show you what all I used for the rolls, in addition to the squash, lemon juice, and of course, flour and sugar, which, by the way, I forgot to add to the picture. Oh well, you get the idea, right?

After I chopped everything up, I threw them all into a pot with some lemon and apple juice. I added the apple juice because I wanted it to be really yummy and moist. Normally, I would turn the heat to a medium/high heat, but I was going to be making the dough and didn't want the squash to burn, so I just turned it to low to cook it down. I stirred it every 5 minutes or so. After the squash was tender, I put in the sugar and spices. Then I stirred it some more. It was ready to put some thickener in, so I shook up the flour and water. I always pour this through a strainer to catch all the lumps. You could certainly use cornstarch, but I like to use flour and water with this sort of thing. Besides, I didn't have enough cornstarch for this, and I have a thing against going to the grocery store for one thing. It's just against my principles.

Here's what it looked like after I put the flour and water in. I took out half of this for a crisp, and saved the other half for the sweet rolls.

I put the butter and vanilla into the hot mixture and stirred until the butter melted. Then I set it aside to cool. This is very important for rolls. Believe me. I know these things. I have personal experience that proves if you put warm filling into sweet rolls, what you end up with is a mooshy, gooshy mess that doesn't roll. Just thought you might like to know that.

While the squash was cooking, I was putting together the dough. Yeast goes into warm water, stirred, and then sits for a few minutes to contemplate the world.

That gets added to the warmed milk, butter, sugar and salt mixture, then stirred all together until it is one big, happy family.

After that, I start dumping in the flour. I never measure this, I just pretty much go by how it feels. You know, that 60's thing, "If it feels good, do it!" So I'm stirring in lots of flour. Ack! I forgot the eggs! Hmmmm, that's what thinking about the 60's will do to you! But, don't worry, yeast dough is very forgiving. I just stirred it in. See?

Once again, all is right in the world. I stirred until I couldn't stir it anymore, then put it on the marble slab on top of lots (emphasis on lots) of flour.

After that, I put even more flour on top of the whole thing.

Oh, yea. Yeast dough. It's beautiful. This is the fun part. This is where we get to knead the dough. Be sure to wear an apron. Unless you don't mind flour all over your front. I like to knead dough, so I usually do it for longer than necessary, but probably, maybe, oh, I'd say, about ten minutes. You wouldn't have to do it that long, though, maybe less than five. Depending on how much flour was stirred in and how thick it is before you start kneading. This is what it looks like when it is done being kneaded.

Beautiful, isn't it? It has so many possibilities at this stage, but today our little yeast dough blob will be sweet rolls when it grows up. You can let the dough rest now if you want, just cover it with a clean towel. If you can't, or don't want to wait, just keep going. The recipe I'm using makes 2 9x13 pans with 12 rolls in each. The easiest way to do that is to cut the dough in half, and work with one pan of rolls at a time. First, it needs to be rolled out to a rectangle.

Then I put half of the cooled squash mixture on it, and spread it close to, but not right at, the edges.

Very carefully, starting from one long edge, lift the dough and sort of fold/roll the whole thing. Try not to make anything squeeze out.

Keep rolling until you get to the end.

Cut the whole roll into 12 even pieces. The easiest way for me to do this is to cut it in half, then cut each of those halves in half. That will make 4 equal pieces, and I cut each of those 4 pieces in thirds. It's magic! Well, really, it's math. 4 x 3 = 12!

Put the pieces in the (greased) pan, and stand back and look. Tell yourself how wonderful you are. Cover them with a clean towel and let them contemplate the world, again. If the house is on the cool side, get out your electric heating pad, set it to warm, put a towel over the pad, then pop the rolls on top of that, then a towel to cover the whole thing. But, since it is summer now, I just let them sit on the counter.

Or.......if you are in a really big hurry, just put them in a cold oven and turn it onto 350. They won't rise quite so much, but will still be fantastic. If you decide to let them rise, this is what they would look like when they are done.

Time to pop them in the oven. They'll take anywhere from 30-40 minutes. Just check them, and make sure you are not in a hurry and fooled by the beautiful brown on top, like I was. This is what they looked like when I pulled them out. It was too soon.

I should not have been so rushed. That's what happens when I hurry. Bad things. These rolls needed another 5 minutes. I turned my back, and they fell. Well, ok, just the 2 in the middle, but still. Next time, all 12 will be done when I take them out. But, for today, the outside ones were good. Really good. And they smelled wonderful.

Rolls......they're such a beautiful thing. They're all about what's right in the world, filled with sweetness and love. Ohhhhh, let's all hold hands and sing, "Kumbaya," shall we?

Squash Sweet Rolls
Makes 24

Mix together and let sit for 3-4 minutes.
4 Tablespoons yeast
1 cup warm water

Warm together in microwave until butter begins to melt.
1 cup milk
4 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cups sugar
1 Tablespoons salt

2 eggs
about 7 cups flour

Mix all liquid ingredients (including the eggs) well. Add flour until too stiff to stir, then knead until smooth, about 5-10 minutes. Cut in 2, roll out flat, spread with filling, roll, cut into 12 equal pieces. Put into greased 9x13 pan. Repeat with other half of dough. Let rise in warm place. Bake in 350 oven about 30-35 minutes. Let cool about 5-10 minutes, then frost with powdered sugar glaze.

4 cups powdered sugar
4-5 Tablespoons milk

Squash Filling:
6 cups peeled, chopped, summer squash
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup apple juice

1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves

3/4 cup flour
1 cup water

4 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Cook squash, lemon juice and apple juice together until squash is tender. Stir in sugar and spices. Mix flour and water together. (I use a canning jar) Strain enough flour and water into hot squash to make mixture thick enough to hold together, stirring to distribute well. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Let cool.

Monday, August 24, 2009

All By Myself

I'm usually pretty busy at home. I'm head cook and bottle washer, taxi driver, educator, vet, and the list goes on, depending on the moment. But that usually involves being with my people, my family. I'm used to being around my family. It's a routine. It's comfortable. But what's a girl to do when she finds herself at home and the rest of her family isn't? What happens to my routine then? What shall I fill this large void with? And, as if that's not enough to wrap my brain around, I will be by myself all day. And, not just today, but all week. Yeah. All day. All week. As in Monday through Friday. As in five (5) whole days. Baby. That's some pretty heavy stuff.
I could work outside. There's always tons to do out there. Hmmm, like, maybe put the chicken feed away?

Or maybe I should chip eucalyptus.
Or spread the chips that we already have made. There are new trees that don't have mulch yet, and around here, mulch is good. Really good.

I could make pickles. Again. My cucumbers are producing like crazy.

The marigolds are just some of the flowers around here that need some attention. I could start by deadheading them.

I only made one batch of mint jelly, maybe I should make another. It's my favorite, and the mint is more than able to give up a few cups of leaves.

The scarlet mallow needs to be pruned, maybe I will do that. Oh, and the, " e come" sign needs to be fixed to say, "Welcome."

My basil. I have tons of it. Perfect for pesto. I really need to do that.

We have really nice chips for close to the house, and here's a pile of them that I got last week. Lots of spots are a little on the bare side and could use some extra.

Or, I could just wander around taking pictures. Here's one of Sassy, our old mama cat. Dozer, our 100 pound lab, gives her a wide space when he walks around her. The guys say she's cranky. I wonder why they say that?

This is on, "The Hill." It started as a big pile of eucalyptus stumps that were dug up to make room for a new set of leach lines. We took out a whole row of trees for the new lines. (Did you get that? "We?") Let me tell you, leach lines that work are the best. Especially in the rain. Anyway, the stumps were put in a big pile to be burned. And we did. We burned them once, and then the leftovers just sat there. And sat there. So we decided the whole thing would look nice if we covered it with plants and stuff. We carted leftover clippings and dirt, and all manner of waste stuff we get around here, and dumped it all on top and around the edges. Pretty soon, it started looking like an area that we might like, and we planted flowers and a lilac, then some trees, and, "Poof!" This is what it has turned into. It's really cool.

"Lori And The Beanstalk?"

Cucumbers early this morning.

Oh, my gosh! I've got it! I know what I will do today. Our oldest son is storing a small boat here. I could take a short cruise around the lake. It looks pretty seaworthy, don't you think? Yeah, it's perfect. It even has a name written on the side. It's called the, "SS Minnow." I wonder where that came from? Anyway, I wouldn't be gone long, maybe 3 hours.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Girl Day!

Friday I had a girl day. Like, almost all day. It was fun, and, well, girlie! I don't get many girlie days, because I live in a house filled with boys. Granted, I'm only outnumbered 2 to 1, now that the eldest is in college and moved out. But still, at times it's nice to just forget about testosterone and be a girl. Which is kinda funny, since I've never been the frilly, foo foo kind. Anyway, about a week ago, I got a phone call from my niece. She needed to go shopping for some jeans before she went away to college, and she and her mom, who just so happens to be my sister, were going right past my house on their way to the big city, and did I want to go?? Of course! I wouldn't pass up a chance to spend the day with the two of them. Friday morning came, and off we went, headed to the nearest mall. Well, my niece tried on a boatload of jeans, and would you believe none of them fit? Now, this was a pretty big shock for me, because, well, when my kid needs jeans, whoever is going by Sam's or Walmart picks up a pair, and they always, and I mean always, work. I guess that's a guy for you. Not so with girls. The jeans my niece wanted would need to be high enough up so her keester didn't show when she bent over, and long enough in the legs so when she went riding (horses) the cuffs were still long enough. And it wasn't because she was being overly picky, because she wasn't. They just didn't fit. She was getting a little bummed, so we did what any normal person would do. We ate lunch! We decided on Olive Garden. Had the unlimited soup, salad, and bread sticks. It was very good. Just the thing we needed to continue on our quest for the perfect pair of jeans. We put our heads together, and decided that we should go to Tractor Supply, or "T.S.C." as they're known as around here. I knew they had women's jeans, and, who knows, maybe there would be something there that she would like. So, off we went! And you know what? They have the most perfect Wrangler jeans for riding, and the only ones I've ever seen that has the size and inseam made for women. Small women, but still, women's jeans. I guess we are moving up in the jeans world. Anyway, now my niece has 2 more pairs of perfect jeans, (she would've gotten another pair, but that's all they had) and she is a way happy girl. She's ready to go! She's so excited to start. All she has to do now is wait. Just wait for the beginning of school so she can start her first year of college. The first of many, many, years of college. But she is excited. It's what she has always wanted to do, ever since she was little. And now she is on her way.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Saturday Morning Visitor

Hubby and I were eating breakfast under the trees last weekend. Actually, it was more of a brunch, because when I make breakfast for us, it takes me a very long time. I can't do anything less than a 3 course breakfast on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Don't ask me why, I just do. I've tried not to, but it just happens. I tell myself I'm just going to make eggs and some toast. But then I decide that a little fruit would be nice, so I cut up peaches or melon, or whatever I have in the fruit basket. Usually, I like to add some cheese into the eggs, and then I think, it's in the middle of the summer, I might as well make a small omelet with some veggies, so I run out to the garden. Assuming I don't get sidetracked and start weeding, or watering, or tying things up, or basically just puttering, I will cut chard, green onions, squash, and whatever else looks good. Of course, they need to be washed, dried and chopped before I am able to start cooking them. Next thing I know, my simple eggs and toast breakfast has turned into a 3 course meal. Ahhhh, but I digress. It was about 11 on Saturday morning when we heard the far off hum of an engine. We looked around, and then up, and this is what we saw:

It's not unusual to see planes flying over and around our house this time of year. We have lots of orchards and fields around us that need things flown on. This crop duster was flying over the rice field to the south of us, and in the process, giving us a nice personal air show. I love the sound of a crop duster, with the ups and downs, and then they will be a little muffled when they go behind trees. It's all very country-fied. Or, would that be, country-ish? Anyway, we sat there for a few minutes watching the plane go back and forth, up over the trees, turning around and then going back down into the field. I decided to ditch my breakfast, and ran inside to grab my camera. For the next 10 minutes or so, I was able to shoot quite a few pictures, first from the garden, and then from the pasture. Here are a few of my favorites.

This next one was awesome! I was in the pasture, clicking pictures, and the pilot flew almost directly over. I was taking pictures as fast as my camera would go. I was bending backwards, taking pictures, and hoping that I wouldn't get off balance and fall. After all, that might be bad for my camera! It was amazing, and such a thrill! Besides that, I ended up with this picture that shows up close how the seeds and stuff come out all along the bottom wing. Cool, huh?

Then he turned and went back to take another run at the rice field. He made a few more passes, and then he was gone, taking our air show with him. What a way to start the weekend!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I love barns. Especially old barns. In an odd sort of way, they remind me of people. Even when they are old and bent, they have character and grace, with wood that is gnarled by the weather, not unlike the skin of a person after a lifetime of being in the sun. It's a sort of beauty that I have always liked. Today I indulged myself by driving the local roads, just looking at barns. I've seen them all many, many times. We've lived here for over 20 years, and they were all here when we moved to this house. But today I decided that I just wanted to look, not needing to be anywhere by any particular time. It's what summer vacations are for, just doing things that we normally don't have time for.
Here's a sampling of what I saw today. Some are still in use, some aren't.

This barn, every time I drive by, looks like it has just been cleaned up. I've never known it to look anything but immaculate.

These next two barns are neighbors!

The barn below is used for persimmon packing. I remember taking the kids for walks in the wagon when they were real little, and walking by while they were in the middle of persimmon season. It was known as the, "Sanford and Son" barn, because someone had painted that on the side. The writing has since been covered up, but it is still called that.

This one is just down the road a ways, next to our mailbox. It was used to house a produce business before we moved here. I believe they moved their business less than a year before we moved down the road. It hasn't been in use since then.

I can see this one from our house. It's sort of a shop/barn, but I like it, so I have included it. Our neighbor built it about 30 years ago. It has lots of character now, and the birds love it. There was a fire on the left side about 15 years ago when a crow touched two power lines and fell to the ground. It started a fire, burning a portion of our pasture and a small building next to the barn, but the metal structure survived with limited damage to the inside (flammable) lining of the walls.