Browsing Archives for Life

On Sunday,  I grilled some steaks for lunch and made a salad to go with it consisting of grape tomatoes from a plastic box, red leaf lettuce, and half a bag of ready to eat spinach.

I don’t normally buy ready to eat salad fixins’

There is something appalling to me about ready to eat salad fixins’.

Which really makes no sense at all.

I mean, I am not exactly a food purist.  

My family has been known to subsist on microwave popcorn, cold cereal, and Ramen noodles for weeks at a time.  It is just that making a salad… tearing up some lettuce… slicing up a cucumber… tossing in a few grape tomatoes… this is not hard.. this is not rocket science.  Must it be made simpler with bagged salad greens?

So I don’t buy bagged lettuce.  I buy lettuce and spinach that requires a few tears… a few weak and shaky slices with a knife… before they can be added to a bowl and slathered in salad dressing.

I also don’t eat store bought salad dressing.  I am not sure that there exists another product in the aisles of the grocery store that can be so uniformly bad tasting as store bought salad dressing.  All of them.  Every last one.  I usually have a few bottles of ancient store bought salad dressing in my fridge that I haul out for company.  But for myself, I make my own. 

I use those little Hidden Valley packets.

Yes, I know…   

Not very impressive.

Did you really think it would be?



Because if you have ever witnessed a single feat of impressive cooking on THIS BLOG, I think you were actually reading a different blog.


I went to the store to pick up a few items for our lunch and I was hoping to find some spinach.  Alas, our small town grocery store didn’t have any fresh spinach.  The store only had bagged spinach.  So I bought it.  

For the first time EVER I bought bagged salad.  

I brought it home, opened the bag, poured it onto the other salad parts that I sliced and diced myself.

It was delicious.

Tonight for dinner I had big plans for a nice family dinner.  When I got home from work, I made a chicken and rice casserole that my boys love.  I then sped off to teach an aerobics class and when I came back home, the Country Doctor was loading up all my children in his truck to take them all to various baseball practices.  No one is here to eat my chicken and rice casserole.    I don’t really feel like eating a chicken and rice casserole by myself.  Instead,  I am eating the rest of the bagged spinach and the rest of the grape tomatoes and the rest of the salad dressing that I made myself.  


I am also watching The Office on Hulu!  We have not ever been able to watch television shows on the internet because our connection has always been far too slow.  Well guess what!  It isn’t slow any more!  The Country Doctor signed us up for a faster internet service.  I can watch The Office on the internet now.


I can watch The Office on my computer and eat bagged spinach and grape tomatoes from a plastic box and salad dressing from a Hidden Valley packet.  

My life is pure bliss!

And yet it also seems to be tanking at the same time!

Someone send help please!


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!