Browsing Archives for May 2009


To make Joe and Rita’s Springtime salad, first you have to plant a garden…






Next, you have to carry a bowl and a knife out to the lettuce patch…







And then you cut enough tender lettuce to fill up the bowl…






You will also want to pick a fist full of green onions and tiny, red radishes.






Further clean up your freshly picked veggies at the kitchen sink…







If you are a man, you may sharpen your knife.

If you are a woman, this step might not be an absolute necessity.








Slice up those onions and radishes into mouth watering bite sized pieces.






Try not to eat all the radishes before dinner time.








Rita dresses up this Springtime Salad with her own salad dressing.






She mixes mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and cream until it comes out right.  







For maximum pleasure, a radish must anchor each forkful.

There is sunshine in every single bite.

I did it!

I finally managed to capture my mother-in-law, Rita in the midst of making her delicious bread.

As I mentioned previously, Rita raised nine kids on her bread and over the years, she has mastered the art form of baking bread.

Here is Rita’s homemade bread recipe.


To make four loaves of Rita’s bread you will need:

5 cups water

Approximately 8 cups of white flour

Approximately 4 cups of whole wheat flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon yeast

 1 T salt

1 T bacon grease



Rita uses a mixer to make her sponge.  

She mixes five cups of tepid or lukewarm water with the yeast.

She then adds the sugar, and gradually incorporates four cups of white flour and two cups of whole wheat flour.  

I am not sure how to technically describe a sponge for anyone who might not understand what it is, but it is just the first step or the first ‘rising’ in the process of making a batch of bread.






Rita keeps her white flour in an ice cream bucket.

She also keeps her compost in an ice cream bucket

I also keep my compost in an ice cream bucket.

You might want to double check your ice-cream just to make sure it is actually ice-cream, should you ever eat any at either Rita’s or my house.




Rita also wanted to point out that she did not always use a mixer to make her bread sponge.  

This is a recent development.  

She spent most of her life making bread using only her own two hands and an occasional twig from a sturdy oak tree.

Not really on the twig part.





Rita likes to mix up her big batches of bread in a large plastic bowl set down inside of her kitchen sink.  This allows her to work at a level that is more comfortable and also much more practical than say building a ‘baking center’ that you only use once a year in your brand new house.  

This method also keeps all the flour mess in the sink, instead of on the floor underneath the kitchen table, or sprinkled all around the kitchen cabinets, which is very nice.  







This is Rita’s sponge after it has doubled in size. 






At this point, Rita adds one tablespoon of salt.






And one tablespoon of bacon grease.

Normally, Rita would clarify her bacon grease by heating it up and letting the black specks fall to the bottom of the container so that they did not end up in her bread, but in this instance…

she couldn’t be bothered.






After stirring in the salt and the bacon grease,

Rita begins to incorporate the rest of the flour.  





Four more cups of white flour from the old ice-cream bucket.




And two more cups of whole wheat flour.





She uses a spoon to mix in the rest of the flour until the dough becomes too stiff at which point she starts to use her hands.





She frequently covers her hands in flour

to keep the dough from sticking.





How long does Rita knead her bread?

Here is a quote from Rita to help you…

“You work it until your shoulders hurt

and you get a little pain down the center of your back.  

Then you’ll know that you worked it enough.”





This is what Rita’s dough looks like after all the flour has been incorporated.

She then covers the dough and places it in a warmish spot to raise for around two hours or until it doubles in size.





When the bread dough has doubled,

Rita greases four bread pans with vegetable oil.






Here is what her dough looks like after it has doubled in size.






Rita then divides her dough into four equal sections.






After shaping three of the loaves herself, Rita let Ethan have a hand at shaping a loaf of bread.

First he put some oil on his hands to keep the dough from sticking to them.






Then he worked the dough into a nice loaf shape under his grandma’s tutelage.






Rita put cinnamon on Ethan’s loaf so we would know which loaf was his.







She covered the loaves in a warm sunny spot to raise for another two hours or until they too, doubled in size.






Here are the loaves ready to go in the oven!







Rita bakes her bread at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.







Here are the loaves fresh from the oven.

Is there a better aroma on the face of the earth than fresh baked bread?







Here are four of Rita’s grandsons drawn to the freshly baked bread like a flock of hungry crows.





But Rita is not about to let them have any of that bread yet!

First she brushes a light coating of vegetable oil on all six sides of each loaf.





She uses a dishcloth to apply the oil.





To avoid a ‘soggy bottom’, Rita likes to set the loaves on their sides for a while.






She covers the loaves and then after ten or fifteen minutes have passed, she will give the loaves another turn to avoid ‘soggy sides’.

At this point you may start to wonder if you are EVER going to actually get to EAT a piece of her bread!









Finally, Rita slices some bread.







Her bread is tender and fragrant, with a mildly sweet, yeasty flavor.







I wish I could send you a piece.  

Thanks Rita!


The Alchemist, A Review

May 8th, 2009

My book club recently met to discuss The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  This small and unassuming book has sold over 65 MILLION copies and holds the Guinness Book of World Records for being translated into more languages than any other book by a living author.  I did not know any of these facts about the book when I was reading it and I am glad.  If I had known, I am sure it would have colored my perception of the book. Instead, I read the book completely unaware that I was holding a cultural phenomena in my hands.



The book was met with mixed reviews by the members of my book club, however the spicy, roasted red pepper hummus that Dina served alongside our book club discussion was met with hearty approval all around.  I hope she sends me that recipe soon!   Oh!… and that pretty blond with the glasses is one of the three blonds of Three Blonds and the Law.



I liked the book for the most part…

Until I began to grow weary of a few certain phrases…

But first a brief synopsis.


The Alchemist is the story of an adolescent shepherd boy who chooses to become a shepherd over entering the priesthood like his parents had hoped.  One night while sleeping in an abandoned church on his ‘sheep route’, he has a dream.  That dream eventually leads him to an old man called Melchizidek.   Anyone familiar with Bible history will realize that this is probably a metaphor for God.  Melchizidek equips the boy with a few items for his journey, requests payment for his wares and his sage counsel in sheep, and sends the boy off on a quest to find his treasure.  

I enjoyed the boy’s journey.  I was completely swept up in the story of his travels and his adventures until about two thirds of the way through the book.  At which point I began to grow weary of a few phrases that seemed to jump out of every corner of the book.  I started to feel as if I were being beaten over the head with these phrases.  I began to attempt to avoid these phrases at all costs.  I found myself ducking into the frozen food aisle of our small town grocery, to avoid being seen by these phrases.  I began wearing dark sunglasses and a wig whenever I went out so that the phrases would not recognize me.  

I refused to leave my house.  

I put black paper on the windows.

I spoke in whispers 

I hid out in the basement.


The phrases that I began to find very disturbing were…


The Soul of The World

The Language of The World

The Philosopher’s Stone

The Elixir of Life


Personal Legend


These phrases appear in Coelho’s book something like a million times…

They are always capitalized to set them off.

I read these heavy handed phrases over and over and over again.

I eventually began to find the phrases absurd.  

AND THEN… I started to feel like the book was a parody of itself.

AND THEN… I started to feel like the book was a Saturday Night Live skit.

AND THEN… I started to think that I was on Saturday Night Live and had to give the cute little speech that starts out the show.

AND THEN… I started to obsess about what I would wear when I was on Saturday Night Live giving the cute little speech.

AND THEN… I started to wonder about the last time I really saw a good Saturday Night Live…

AND THEN… I started to wonder about the last time I actually SAW Saturday Night Live…



I stopped watching it during the era of this particular actress…


Because I have never found her to be funny.

Not one single time.

Not even a teensy bit.

I just don’t get her.

Am I alone in this thinking?


Thus ends my review of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

And also of the actress/comedienne, Tina Fey.



Did you know that Paulo Coelho has a blog?!?!

Check it out and you can tell him what you think about forgiving and forgetting.  He wants to know!