Give us this day our daily (cranberry orange) bread

I enjoy baking. Besides cookies, breads are probably the thing I bake the most of. Quick breads, especially banana bread, is something I’ve been making since I was a young girl growing up in South Dakota. As a 4-H member, I exhibited many items in our summer “county fair,” called Achievement Days. I recall winning a purple ribbon (the highest you can receive followed by a blue, red or white ribbon) on my loaf of banana bread when I was in third grade.

Baking, competing, learning more about food and nutrition…it all interested me then as it continues to now. This year’s Stearns County Fair was no exception. I entered several baked items and did OK. My banana bread only took second this go around. I think buttermilk is the key to making it especially good. My cranberry orange bread gleaned the top spot. Orange juice and the zest of the orange rind helps give this bread its great orange flavor. These are my recipes. Enjoy!

 

 

CRANBERRY ORANGE BREAD

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 bag of whole cranberries (fresh or frozen…you can chop ‘em a bit if you wish)
2/3 cup orange juice
zest from 1 large orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix well with mixer, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Pour into 3 large loaf pans that have been sprayed. Bake 350 for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center of loaves comes out clean.

Makes 3 large loaves.

BANANA BREAD

6 ripe bananas, mashed
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 ½ cups buttermilk
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
6 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine bananas, sugars, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and oil. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to banana mixture and mix well scraping sides of mixing bowl occasionally. Pour into 3 large loaf pans that have been sprayed. Bake 350 for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center of loaves comes out clean.

Makes 3 large loaves.

Note: Watch for Rita’s award-winning chocolate chip cookie recipe in the Aug. 11 issue of The Visitor.

Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 17 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove.

Green Beans Anyone?

Father Marv’s sermon on Sunday was about the seed that’s sown in rich soil producing abundant fruit. Well, I think we’ve got good soil going here. At least when it comes to green beans. Good soil. Good seed. Good watering. Good grief! This morning I picked four 5-gallon pails of the things. Sometimes I see green beans in my sleep even.

 

We have a large garden. We don’t do a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where we grow actual shares for customers but just about. We put our “Marvin’s Garden” sign at the end of the driveway when stuff is ready as well as taking pre-orders from our regular customers. The cute little red shed that my husband Marv built houses a frig and shelves that we sell out of.

Today’s lunch included Szechuan green beans. Nothing too difficult. You just cook your snipped green beans in a large pot of boiling water until crisp but firm (that’s called al dente!). Drain ‘em. Add some Szechuan sauce (I bought mine at Coborn’s but I know Walmart carries a couple of different brands as well; look for it in the Asian aisle next to the soy & teriyaki sauce). Toss to coat. Sprinkle on some almonds or cashews and va la’ – a spicy addition to your meal.

Keep tending the soil of your soul. Jesus wants us to bear much fruit – even “fruit” better than green beans! He wants us to respond to His Word and His Will. Keep enjoying summer. And, if you need anything green, please come our way.

Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 17 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove.

An hour with Mom

There’s a disconnect here. I’m trying to lean into Jesus more. Really, I am. But it’s as if my intentions and my actions don’t always jive. I keep doing the “me” thing when I should be doing the “others” thing. I put my wishes ahead of what others might need or want. Take yesterday for example. I didn’t want to hang around at Park View until Mom was done getting her perm. I wanted to get home to unload the groceries and make some lunch. I knew Mom would be bumming if we took off instead of waiting to visit with her in her apartment. But I had my to do list and I was sticking to it. Besides, the kids and I were hungry.

I’d barely gotten the soup started and my cell phone rang. Should I ignore the call? Act as if I couldn’t hear it because my phone was still in my purse? Oh, just pick it up. “Where are you?” she asked. “I’m at home, Mom.” “Oh, I’m on my way to my apartment now. I was hoping you’d still be here.” And so the conversation went, including a, “I was hoping we could go outside for a walk together.” That one really got the guilt bug a biting.

Sometimes I feel like such a failure in the good daughter department. Mom needs me. I’m the one that’s 10 minutes away. The other seven siblings not so much. We just lost Arlene, my wonderful mother-in-law that she was. Why can’t I get it through my head that Mom might not be here that much longer either. Your time with her is limited, Rita. Start acting like it.

Jesus, help me to remember that the most important thing I might do today is spend one hour with my mom. Help me to treasure that time, no matter what.

Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 17 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove.

Keep your chin up

“Keep your chin up.” Mom used to tell me this. I didn’t like the saying much. First, I thought it sounded corny.  Second, it’s an order and I’m not real fond of being told what to do. Know what?  I haven’t heard Mom say that in a long time. I almost wish I would.

The tables have turned. Not that I employ that exact saying, but it’s my turn to be the encourager with Mom. It’s my turn to boost her up; to keep telling her to think positive.

This is Mom’s first Mother’s Day since suffering a series of mini strokes last November. It’s her first Mother’s Day in an assisted living apartment. It’s the first Mother’s Day that all of us kids won’t gather out at the farm to celebrate.

This is our new normal. This is how we do life now. Five of us siblings will gather in the “cow lounge” (what I call it because of the decorating motif) at Park View Center in Melrose. One sister came last weekend; another will come next weekend. Mom likes when we spread things out so she has someone’s company to look forward to each weekend.

I asked Mom what sounded good for our potluck plans. The only thing she could think of was Hawaiian Chicken Salad. That too is a switch. Not that our get-togethers revolved around the meal, but they kinda did. The food was definitely a highlight for all, especially Mom. And why not? She had paid her dues in her younger years; as she got older, us kids did more and more of the cooking. Our way of showing love was to prepare all of Mom’s favorites. It gets a little tricky now when she doesn’t have anywhere near the appetite nor the interest in food like she used to.

But, in honor of Mom, I’m making the rhubarb cake that she used to make. Actually, she made a lot of things rhubarb at this time of year, especially strawberry rhubarb sauce. This is an easy one, but really good, especially when you serve it still warm with a little Cool Whip on top.

RHUBARB CAKE

4 cups diced rhubarb
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
3 TBSP red jello
1 yellow cake mix (mixed according to package directions with eggs, oil and water)
1 pint half & half

Mix together rhubarb, sugar and jello and set aside.  Mix a yellow cake mix as directed on the box.  Pour cake mix into greased 9 x 13” pan.  Sprinkle the rhubarb mixture on top. Pour half & half over all and bake at 350 degrees 40 min. or until done. Serve with Cool Whip.

Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 17 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove.

 

 

 

One-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot cross buns!

Hot Cross Buns have an interesting history behind them: the idea of marking crosses on baked goods such as bread, cakes and buns goes back to pre-Medieval times and was a visible sign that the bread was “blessed” and had the power to ward off evil spirits, as well as help with the longevity of the bread by stopping it from going moldy or becoming stale so quickly. A cross marked on the dough was also believed to help the bread to rise.

An image of the hot cross buns while cooling.

Although the name for Hot Cross Buns was commonly known as Good Friday Buns for nearly a hundred years, during the 1730s the buns were starting to be sold on the streets and therein the name as well as the popular rhyme emerged, as the sellers would shout out “One-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot cross buns”….a penny for a larger bun or for two smaller ones. Nowadays, you can buy Hot Cross Buns all year round, which some people think is a shame, as it cheapens and weakens the history and traditions behind this wonderful spiced bun.

Personally, I had never made Hot Cross Buns but I received a catering order for four dozen of them from the Melrose-cluster Liturgical Director for the second grade Learning Centers in preparation for their First Communion. Upon Googling both the history and numerous different recipes for Hot Cross Buns, I came up with a plan. If I would have had cardamom on hand, I would have used that but instead, I went with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to spice my buns. Also, the recipes ranged from using raisins, currants and other dried cut-up fruit. I used raisins and diced fruit cake fruits because that’s what I had on hand. And, I used my bread machine (my kitchen wouldn’t be complete without at least one sitting on the counter!) to mix and knead the dough. If you’d rather make yours totally from scratch, here’s the general recipe I followed:

Traditional Hot Cross Buns Recipe


1 package active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
1 cup warm 2% or whole milk (110 to 115 degrees)
1 egg
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
4 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup raisins
½ cup diced dried fruit (craisins, currants, pineapple, etc.)

Icing:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons milk or cream

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. In a large bowl, combine eggs, butter, sugar, salt, spices, yeast mixture and half of the flour; beat on medium speed until smooth. Stir in dried fruit and remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide and shape into 24 balls. Pinch and tuck dough under to shape into buns. Place on parchment-lined or greased baking sheets. Cover with kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool slightly.

For icing, in a small bowl, mix confectioners’ sugar, extract and enough milk or cream to reach desired consistency. Pipe (in a plastic baggie with a corner cut off) or pour from a measuring cup a cross on top of each bun.

Yield: 2 dozen small buns.

Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 17 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove.

Do pretzels have anything to do with Lent?

The pretzel indeed has its origins as an official food of Lent. In the early Church, the Lenten abstinence and fasting laws were stricter than what the faithful practice today. Many areas of the Church abstained from all forms of meat and animal products. The general rule was for a person to have one meal a day, in the evening or at three o’clock in the afternoon, and smaller snacks to maintain strength. So a need arose for a very simple food, which would fulfill both the abstinence and fasting laws.

According to pretzel maker Snyders of Hanover, a young monk in the early 600’s in Italy was preparing a special Lenten bread of water, flour and salt. To remind his brother monks that lent was a time of prayer, he rolled the bread dough in strips and then shaped each strip in the form of crossed arms, mimicking the then popular prayer position of folding one’s arms over each other on the chest. The bread was then baked as a soft bread.

Because these breads were shaped into the form of crossed arms, they were called “bracellae,” the Latin word for “little arms.” From this word, the Germans derived the word “bretzel” which has since mutated to the familiar word “pretzel.”

If you would like to make soft pretzels with your children as a “teachable moment” before Lent is over, this recipe will work (as would thawed frozen bread dough from the grocery store).

Soft Pretzel Recipe
(I actually mixed the dough using my bread machine but if you don’t have one, this isn’t hard either.)

1 package active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (110 degrees)
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups all purpose flour
1 egg
2 Tablespoons kosher salt

In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, sugar and salt. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour until a stiff dough is formed.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in volume.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 18 pieces. Roll pieces out into long strips and shape into the form of arms crossed in prayer.

Place on parchment-lined (or sprayed) baking sheets. Brush with a beaten egg to give a shiny finish (I skipped the egg on ours). Sprinkle the tops with kosher salt if desired.

Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 17 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove.