Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ODD, homeschooling and difficult kids

On one of my homeschool forums, a mom asked how to cope with and homeschool kids with ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) Some information on what ODD is can be found at:

Here is a very short description of ODD behaviors. This behavior usually lasts longer than 6 months.
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Argumentativeness with adults
  • Refusal to comply with adult requests or rules
  • Deliberate annoyance of other people
  • Blaming others for mistakes or misbehavior
  • Acting touchy and easily annoyed
  • Anger and resentment
  • Spiteful or vindictive behavior
  • Aggressiveness toward peers
Here is my re-edited reply to this mom's question:

I have an 18dd that was diagnosed at 5 with ADHD/ODD. She's been homeschooled for all but 6 weeks in 4th grade. She went for the first 6 weeks of 4th grade, made 7 A's and a B. I then pulled her out again. (Long story why she was there in the first place. Not a legal problem, but a gossip's problem) Anyway, this is our saga and some of my ideas for dealing with these kids.

When my daughter was 5, I was concerned about her behavior and took her to see a psychiatrist that her father was seeing. The MD's office had made a mistake and double booked everybody that day, so I ended up hanging around his office (with not only the 5dd, but a 2ds and a 3month dd) for about 6 hours. I was determined to see him. Finally at about 6pm, he saw us. Needless to say that by then, her behavior was off the Richter scale. He observed her for 2 hours, all the while asking me questions about her behavior and scoring it on a questionnaire he had. She was into everything in his office. Being mom and trying to get her to behave, I was correcting her a lot. He said to just leave her be , he wanted to observed her. After it was all said and done, he discussed his findings and put her on Ritalin for the ADHD. Two weeks later we moved to North GA. Six weeks later I went to a shelter for battered women, taking the kids with me.

It took about two and a half months to figure out that the MD's reasoning for the Ritalin didn't work for me. Plus, she hated taking it. (She still remembers how it made her feel.) So I discontinued giving it to her. It took about a year after leaving her dad - 4 months after the divorce was finalized, for her behavior to settle down, some.

Part of her problem was the abuse in the house. We were always walking on egg shells with dad. Dad would do stuff to the kids and mom would run interference. So I was always on her case to "behave", so she wouldn't set him off. When that problem was no longer there, things settled down, some. As time passed and I could discipline her without his interference we made great strides.(poor baby girl-Mommy's picking on you or screaming at her/me for not making her "behave" or him slapping/teasing her)

Part of the problem was that this was a child that from 11 months to 3 1/2 years old was constantly down on the floor in a tantrum. One day I lost count at about noon. She had already been on the floor THIRTY-SIX times! I did what the books suggested and just walked away, but it didn't stop them. (sometimes she'll STILL tantrum)

What helped her a lot with the tantrums was getting her in an isolated spot. Be it her nose in a corner or in her room until she could get herself calmed down. When she was calm, she could come out. Scolding/yelling at her only made it worse. Loud noise made her worse. So we have to keep the music/voice levels down. I'm not talking about yelling AT her, I'm talking about the general volume of the house. Some of these kids are very noise-sensitive. She still plugs her ears to do the vacuuming! She's also very sensitive to activity levels. If there's too much going on, she can't settle down to eat, sleep or study. Too much going on can be physical (herself/people/things moving around) or emotional (worry, anger, joy, excitement, etc.)

Truth is, at 18 she is STILL ODD, but she has greatly improved with age. On occasion, she can still get on her high horse and ride. She can still be terribly mouthy/rude to us, but each year, she's doing it less and less. And she's really trying hard not to act that way with her boyfriend. I hear her using good communication skills with him. So I've called her on that one. If she can use it with him, why doesn't she use it with us? It got her to stop and think. Again, she's working on it.

Kids with ADHD and ODD are: fire, ready, aim. As they get older, it becomes ready, fire, aim. Only in their late teens to early 20's do they finally get to: ready, aim, fire. In other words, they do stuff, then they think about what they were doing, and only when it's too late, do they think about whether or not they SHOULD they have done it. As they mature, they will will think about what they are doing, still do things, but then they will think about whether or not it was a good idea. It takes adulthood, coupled with some good parenting to teach them to think about what they want to do, consider whether or not it's right and THEN decide to do it (or not to do it.)

How we homeschooled? We unschooled. I tried everything else with her and nothing worked. She fought me like a tiger, there were tears on both sides, threats of public school or a spanking. Nothing worked. You cannot stuff knowledge into a kid's head, you cannot beat knowledge into them, you cannot yell and scream knowledge into them. You cannot cry knowledge into them. You cannot doom and gloom it into them.

They have got to want it AND they have got to have the switches turned on in the brain to understand what you're trying to teach them.. When they want it, NEED it AND their brains are physically ready, then and only then will they learn it and not a second before then. My babies were all premies and I'm dealing with a variety of "dyses" and learning problems with 2 of the 3 but I had to learn the hard way about wanting to do something and having to be physically ready to do it. This is with kids who have IQ's in the 130-140 range, so we're not dealing with low mental abilities. (I know their IQ's because that was one of the things that they were tested for when they were tested for all the dyses - dyscalcula, dysgraphia, dyslexia, auditory processing issues, tracking issues, ADD, ADHD, ODD, etc... that they have.)

At 3 the oldest was very verbal. She could tell me the alphabet. She could tell me the sound the letters made. Ergo, she should be able to read, yes? NO! I tried to teach her, but she just didn't "get it". So after a few short sessions, I realized she wasn't ready and put the stuff away for a year. Tried a few short session. Still not ready. Put it away again. Now she's 5 and ready for "school". Nope, still not ready. She's 6, a little more pressure on me to get her reading. After all, she's got an IQ of 130 and the other "properly schooled" kids are reading. She's still not ready, so I put it away. Now she's 7. People are beginning give me a really bad time about it! I think perhaps if I teach her to spell she can read. NOPE. How do you spell "about"...a-b-o-u-t. Good, that's right. What sounds do these letters make? (a b ow t) What's this word? (aaa bbb owww ttt) She sound it very slowly out. Until she was over 8 years old, she never could just read this word. She'd sound it out as if she'd never seen it before, even though she could quickly spell it. And it wasn't just this word. It was every word!

From the time she was 5 until she was 8, every few months I would bring out the reading and try her. I tried using the same materials, I tried a variety of different materials, I tried an older set of basal readers I was given, I tried "how to teach you child to read" books. Poor as we were (on welfare at the time and living in public housing) I scrounged up $25 a month to pay the $285 for Hooked on Phonics. NOTHING worked.

But something happened 2 weeks after her 8th birthday. I was out on the porch with her and we were looking at a kindergarten basal reader. She was very laboriously sounding out words. Then she looked up at me with a shocked look on her face, her mouth dropped open, her eyes shot big and I could see the light bulb come on. Something clicked inside her head. Then she just started reading! By the time she was 9, she was reading on grade level. By the time she was 12 she was at college level. (I let her spend every minute reading. Children's classics, abridged adult classics, junk, whatever would keep her reading. She did nothing but read all day long. She could even read the scriptures.)

Then there was spelling. Or rather not spelling. At 13 I was sure I had ruined this kid by not putting her in school. was=wuz, please=plese, what=wut. And on it went. At 15, the light clicked on again, and now she spells very well.

That brings us to math. sigh. When she was 6 I tried to teach her to count to 100 by ones. She just couldn't get it. I tried manipulatives, I tried making a flash card with 3 places cut out that I then strung 3 pieces of paper through with the numbers 0-9 on them so she could see how when she changed one number, it went up and that when you got back to 0 you had to change the next place over. I talked about how there was a law that only 0-9 could live in one house. If there were more than 9, everybody went to the next address and the first house was empty until more people moved in. Nothing worked. So I put it away. A month later, she came into my room and said "mom, I can count to 100" and proceeded to do so. Go figure!

I guess her brain just needed time to process the information and for that particular switch to turn on. It's been the pulling hen's teeth to get her to do any math. So I put it away and would bring it out again later. She still doesn't "get it" and I still can't get her to do much by way of math. She has dyscalcula - a problem processing numbers. Until this past summer, when you said "quarter of/after" she would say "oh, 25 before/after".

Even though she had worked as a waitress, when she started at the customer service desk, she had problems counting the change up at the beginning and end of the day. She also couldn't add in her head. After two month working retail, all of a sudden she can add in her head and she can go from counting quarters to dimes without it messing with her head. (mom doing happy dance!) She is very slowly building math skills, but she's still has a ways to go. However, she just bought her own math curriculum, so perhaps she'll get down to it and finally DO it! (But why do it, if your brain neither understands it or retains it?)

This is supposed to be her last year of homeschool. I've been telling her for the last 2 years, that if she can pass any ACT/SAT/GED/State Exit test on line, I'll give her a diploma. If she can't she doesn't get one. She has been reading at post collage level for years, she can keep her checkbook, make good financial decisions (her PS friends get HER to look on line for THEM to tell them what is the best deal on cell phones, or other things they want to buy), she's the customer service manager at a local department store with several hundred dollars she is responsible for maintaining. But on paper or in her head, she can't divide, she can't multiply very well, she can do some fractions (but she still has to ask me where the 1 1/4 line is on our measuring cup) really, she can't do math worth squat on paper or in her head. She's fine with a calculator. She has a very high IQ, but if she were tested on "school stuff"- on paper, she would score a lot lower that what she can actually do. This is not a problem with testing per se, she's a good test-taker, but her inability to look at a problem and being able to work it out in her head.

She needs some work on English mechanics: how to write an essay. But even at 18 getting her to do "assignments" is just this side of futile. Oh, the reason for having her past any test of the afore mentioned tests is that to get into college, she's going to have to pass their tests. She has gaps in her knowledge that I'm trying to get her to fill. These are gaps that would keep her out of college and that her friends make comments to her about, so they really need to be addressed; if for no other reason than her own self-esteem. I'd like her to go to college, but that would have to be her choice.

In the end, we provide "school" opportunities. Whether or not they avail themselves of it is their choice. This is true whether they go to public school, private school or home school.

One trick with ODD kids is to not go toe-to-toe with them. Because no matter if you win or lose the argument, you've lost. These are kids that just have to zag when everyone else is zigging. I was like that when I was younger. Life beats some of it out of you, time takes care of the rest of it. The thing is now, I can remember being like that but I don't know WHY I felt like that. Literally, if "everyone" was doing "it", I had to do something different. I wish I could remember WHY I felt compelled to be that way. And compelled is the correct word.

ODD is a weakness, but I've had to look at ODD as her strength, too. This is a kid that no one can pressure into doing something she thinks is wrong. So I've learned to go in the back door with things. I've learned to give her lots of choices. Yes, there are times that NO has to be NO. These kids are especially tough to govern. You can't EVER let No = maybe. On a good day, they will argue you to the ends of the earth, but if no ever means maybe, you're sunk!

I did have to learn to say, "This is my decision and this is what we're going to do." But that's a HUGE gun that I save for only the most critical things. (say tatoos, piercings, having you teeth cleaned, etc.) Know that the more you try to "force" them to do what's right, the more they rebel. I'm not sure about other kids, but this kid was extremely verbal at a very young age. She knew what she wanted. She knew what she didn't want. And she was willing to tell you. So the trick was to get her to "want" what you wanted for her.

I'm not into "reverse psychology". I think it rewards bad behavior. If we want them to do x and tell them NOT to do x so they will do it, we are rewarding disobedience and they will not outgrow that. Instead, we need to reason with them. Yes, it causes a lot of "discussions", seemingly about everything. But if we will talk with them before we say no, we can oft times get them to come around to our point of view. Then they don't feel like they have to stand up to us. Over time, I've found out that if I reason with her, she is more willing to do what needs to be done. (And yes, these kids do LOVE to set things up to argue about.) It's hard to know just where the line is between letting them be a law unto themselves and giving them choices. I truly think it depends on the particular moment and that particular child. I don't think there's going to be any hard and fast rules with them. Prayer is the only thing that has gotten me through all this!

These kids are "time-intensive" kids. I'm up til 3 in the morning talking with dd. It seems that between 12am and 3am is when she's most calm. It's when I get the "real" person, not the defiant one. There's a lot of counseling going on at that hour. But then, since I'm a single mom, I've got to get back up at 7 to deal with the other kids. There's no one to split the late night hours with. (Ex is as bad as a child, so he's no help! He's more defiant than she is.) It's hard to deal with the other kids in the family, but there's a great need to see that they don't slip between the cracks. My youngest has and I didn't find that out until too late. She's now living at dad's and going wild. Short of hiring a lawyer, there's nothing I can do to get her back, except pray that they all get tired of each other and she gets sent back home. But since he thinks he's found the way to get out of paying child support, that probably won't happen. So again, all I can do is pray.

Another thing is, we're all going to make mistakes. These kids just want to make every one in the book. Sometimes we have to let them. THEN, don't rub their noses in the mistake. They will kick themselves farther down the road than we would have the heart to do IF we don't say "I told you so". If we do, they they will be too busy justifying what they did and not learn from the experience.

To whit, several times I suggested to my daughter that she not get a cell phone plan just yet. She just started a new (part-time) job. She's been out of work for about 9 months, has expenses that need paying and since she's only been at the store for about 2 months now, she really needed to finish paying off some family debts before she contracted for a phone. Did she listen? NO! She did do a bunch of research on the phone and plan she wanted. Finally, this past week, she contracted with them for the phone. But, gasp, it cost more than it looked like it would. So she was short on money. (Just like mom said would happen.) Boy was she SORRY! She repeated it over and over again that she wished she had waited.

She, her boyfriend, dad and aunt were planning a road trip to go see a free "Ozfest" - Ozzie Osborne and a bunch of others of that ilk in concert. (yeah, I know, but she's 18. And dear dad was instigating this, grrrr. sigh) After buying the phone (which was more than she had thought it would be) she ran short of money. I could have "taught her a lesson". I could have said something about "telling her so". I also could have made it impossible for her to go to the concert. I did seriously considered making her pay me the gas money she owes me and missing the concert. But then I got to thinking. This young woman is usually very good about paying her debts. She's been very good about helping me out - especially since dad's not paying any support again. There have been times I've borrowed money from her. So I had a choice to make. Was it worth rubbing her nose in her mistake? Would she learn more by missing the concert because both she and the CSR for the phone company made a mistake on the bill and it cost more than she was told it would be? Or would she learn more by being treated kindly?

If this were a person who was careless about her finances and expected mom to bail her out, it wouldn't have happened. Instead, I chose to remember the times, as a mature adult, that I've made a misjudgment on my finances and someone has helped me out. Didn't I deserve to be "taught a lesson"? Yup, but, normally I'm a very responsible person. I made a mistake. And I was ever so grateful for a friend bailing me out. So I bailed my daughter out. She will pay me back with her next paycheck. She's always paid back her loans. I've always paid back my loans. It's called family. It's called love. On this particular issue, I thought that love was more important than the "financial" lesson. She already knows that one. And I never mentioned her mistake with the phone, nor will I mention it.

The best thing to do to cope with any child is love, love, love. Observe them, look deep into their eyes. Better yet, get a picture of them. The eyes are the mirror of the soul. Look and see if you see happiness their eyes. No one works well if he/she isn't happy.

Sometimes when we least deserve love is when we need it the most. Sometimes when we have least "earned" a break is when we need one the most. Sometimes when life is tough and all you're getting is an argument, stop what you're doing and go to the park, lake, wherever you can afford to go. Get away, have a picnic or light the grill and cookout on the porch. Do something different. Because the kids "deserve it"? No, because you need to break the negative cycle that's going on. Stop being "mom" and be "human". Have fun with them Do something crazy. Swim with your clothes on, lick the ice cream that's running down you hand, instead of wiping it off with a napkin. Hey, smear it on THEIR face. Just something to break the tension in you and them. Something to make each other laugh (that's not mean to or makes fun of someone else!). When you're done, EVERYONE will be in a better mood! Try to have a good belly-laugh with them every day. It makes life easier.

Have family council. Use a "talking stick". For those who don't know what I'm talking about, a talking stick is anything (use to be a carved wooden stick that the Native Americans used) that identifies who has "the floor". If you're not holding the stick, you can't talk. Everyone gets a turn with the stick, no one is allowed to hog it (including parents!). One issue at a time is talked about. (Use a pad and pen to write down other issues that they want to talk about. This way you can stay on the issue at hand, yet not forget the other issues they want to bring up.) We've used odd sticks from outside (make 'em small, no hitting with it allowed lol), a flashlight, a cardboard tube, a piece of paper, anything that the person talking can wave at those who try to interrupt. (If you have a family flag that's not too big, use that. Or make a smaller version of it.) When the person talking is done, the "stick" can be passed to the next person in the circle, the person who raises their hand first, or just put in the middle of the circle for the next person that wants it to pick up - decide ahead of time how you will do it or..... lol

We attack problems, not people. Teach the kids how to say "When this happens...., I feel....". With some of these kids, you're going to have to teach them about feelings before they can verbalize them. Yes, we all feel things, but describing how I felt was a learned task for me. I couldn't just tell someone how I felt. I still have a bit of a problem in that area. (How am I feeling now??? What do you mean, "how am I feeling now"? (puzzled face) I'm not feeling, I'm thinking!) Also telling how you feel without attacking someone else is, for many, a learned skill. All of your children may have learned these skills by watching you and your husband. But there are some kids that DON'T learn by watching. You have to instruct them, verbally. And they CAN'T tell you that they don't know how to do this. You will see it by how they act. They either come at you all claws and teeth or they bottle things until they don't care what happens and explode. In my family, I never remarried so I don't have a husband and they are too young to remember how I tried to defuse the situation before I left my ex. They have only seen how ex and his wife interact. NOT GOOD! And that I try to verbalize with them this way doesn't seem to count for much in learning how to verbalize to others. They have needed instructions from me on HOW to do this.

Raising kids is a tough job. Raising ODD/ADHD kids leaves you feeling like a complete failure - at least while your raising them. It's only now that my daughter is becoming an adult, that I can see any fruits of my labors - at all! And she still has a ways to go.

Many days I still feel like I've failed in raising my kids. I tell them NO. Dad, who lives near by, tells them yes. I try to discipline a negative behavior, he undisciplines, telling them I'm wrong. I take them to church and try to teach them to walk after the ways of Christ, he watches "the Osbornes" with them. (I called over to the other house and this vile show was on. All I could hear every few seconds was a beeping noise. I asked what the noise was and they tell me that it was the "f" word being bleeped out. They didn't bleep the rest of the nasty language out.) I tell them we aren't going to do that in this house, he says come live with him and do as you please.

I've just recently come to the conclusion that it's my job to teach them the best that I know how and to set an excellent example before them. Whether or not they learn the lessons the easy way or the hard way is up to them. ALL kids will make mistakes, ODD kids seem to make more than most. But they do seem to come out of it in the end. Just never give up on them. Love them through not doing their school work, love them through leaving your faith, love them through making bad choices, love them through being just plain rebellious. In the end, your love will be the thing that re-centers them and draws them back to their faith, helps them learn from their mistakes and brings them home to you.

Being a good mom (or dad!) is like being the man that the Lord asked to stand and push against a gigantic boulder. Day after day, the man pushed as hard as he could. Year after year he stayed on task, pushing this gigantic, immobile rock. One day, someone told him he was wasting his life and asked him why he bothered. He got nothing out of it and he was never going to be able to succeed at move that boulder.

His reply was that yes, he had gotten something out of it! The years of pushing had strengthened his muscles. His arms and legs were corded masses, he could lift anything that needed to be lifted. And as far as not succeeding, he replied that yes he was too a success. The Lord hadn't asked him to move the rock, only to push on it. He had successfully done that every day since the request was first made of him.

Sometimes our "success" isn't apparent to those looking on. They criticize our handling of our life and the lives of our children. They are just sure "if only....", then we wouldn't be having the problems we are having. But only God knows if we're doing what he put us here for, what he asked us to do. He gave each of us the children we have, knowing our weaknesses as well as theirs. Our strengths as well as theirs. He alone knows what hardships we've faced and challenges we've overcome. He alone knows what challenges and hardships our children have overcome. All we are required to do is to keep on task. Keep pushing on that immovable rock.

We are to ask for help, then listen with love to advice given us. Then with Him sort through the thoughts we have been given, seeking out what's best for our family. If we need to change something, then change it. If not, then just keep pushing! In the end we will have been a success - whether or not the world agrees.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Rolls, hot pockets, calzones and sweet rolls from bread dough, how to freeze these baked goods

Note to self: ALWAYS make sure you when you're editing, you don't accidentally highlight part of the blog you want to keep. Sometime the blog gets ideas of it's own on what you meant to highlight. Once you've hit delete, it can't be undone and you will spend the next 2 hrs retyping what you had just spent the previous 2 hours typing!

This post is about how to make dinner rolls, hot pockets, calzones and sweet rolls from the previously posted bread recipes here and here. Also, how to freeze the rolls/breads either before or after baking. You can also use biscuit dough and shape it the same way as loaves or rolls. Because biscuit dough is a quick bread, your baked goods will have a different texture than the same shape ones made of bread dough.

With all these recipes you will need to allow the shaped dough to rise after shaping it. Cover dough loosely with damp towel or greased plastic wrap. Let rise in warm spot until almost doubled. Bake rolls at 375-400 degrees for 8-20 mins (until browned), bake full loaves at 375 - 400 degrees 30-45 mins (until browned and sounding hollow when tapped on bottom.)

Loaves and rolls can be "glazed" by brushing dough with an egg/water wash then sprinkled with seeds, herbs, salts or finely chopped vegies; or baked plain. You can brush on butter after the bread is done.

"Brown & Serve" rolls are nothing more than rolls that were undercooked by about 5 mins. Your homemade ones can't be kept on the shelf - they won't have preservatives in them to "keep them fresh". But you can do the same thing by preparing and baking the dough like the recipe calls for, but then under cooking them by about 5 mins (they'll still be pale), cooling them, flash freezing them (place on a cookie sheet, place sheet in freezer for about 2 hrs), then placing in Ziplock type bags. Using a straw to suck the air out of the bag will keep them safer longer. When you are ready to heat and eat, remove the number of rolls you want to serve from the freezer, place on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for about 10 - 20 mins or until the rolls are browned.

Loaves and Mini-loaves:

Peasant Loaf:
You can divide the dough or keep it all together. Shape dough into ball and place in one or two greased 8"-9" round cake pans, 1 1/2 qt. casseroles or one baking sheet. Allow to rise. Can make 1-3 diagonal slits, 3/4" deep, in center of loaf with sharp knife. Bake. Makes 1-2 loaves

You can divide the dough in half. Roll dough into rope(s) about 26" long. Coil rope in circle in the bottom of one or two 8"-9"round cake pan, 1 1/2 qt. casserole(s) or on a cookie sheet. Let rise. Makes 1-2 loaves

Divide dough into 2 or 4 pieces. Roll into one or two ropes 26" long. Cut rope in half to make 2 or 4, 13" ropes. Twist the two pieces together and seal ends. Place in greased 9x5 or 8x4 loaf pans or on greased baking sheet. Let rise. Makes 1-2 loaves

Figure eight:
Can divide dough in two or leave whole. Make a 26" rope. Seal ends into a circle. Twist the circle once to make an 8. Place in greased loaf pan or baking sheet. Let rise. Makes 1-2 loaves.

Dinner Rolls:
Form dough into twelve 2" balls. Place on greased baking sheet. Let rise. Makes 12 rolls.

Form Dough into eight 6" oval rolls, flatten a little. Place on greased baking sheets. Let rise. Makes 8 rolls.

Break off walnut sized pieces of dough (about 3/4"-1" in dia.). Roll into balls and place 3 each in 18 greased muffin tins. Let rise. Makes 18 rolls.

Divide dough into two pieces. Roll each piece into 20" rope. Cut each rope into eighths. Then roll each piece 8" long. Tie in loose knot. Place 1"-2" apart on greased baking sheet. Let rise. Makes 16 rolls.

Crescent rolls:
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece out to about an 8" circle. Cut into 6 wedges. Starting at fat side, roll dough up toward the point. Place 1"-2" apart on greased baking sheet. Curl edges slightly to center to make crescent. Let rise. makes 24 rolls.

Fantail rolls:
Divide dough into two pieces. Roll each piece out into a 15x8 rectangle. Cut each rectangle longways into 5 strips, each about 1 1/2" wide. (1 1/2" x 15") Stack the 5 on top of each other. Cut each stack into 10 pieces about 1 1/2" wide. Place each stack in a greased muffin tin, with the cut ends up. (cut ends will be the tops and bottoms, long flat sides will be the sides of the roll.) Let rise. Makes 20 rolls.

Braided Rolls:
Divide the dough in half. Roll dough out into 14" x 12" rectangle. Cut the rectangle into 1" wide strips (12 strips 1" x 14" long). Braid in groups of 3 (you'll have 4 groups). You can leave each group14" long or cut each group into 3" lengths that will give you 20 pieces. Place on greased baking sheet and let rise. Makes 4-20 rolls.

Pan Rolls:
Divide dough into 3 pieces. Divide each piece into 6 parts. Roll each part into balls and place 9 balls each in two greased 8"-9" round cake pans. Let rise. Makes 18 rolls.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Divide pieces into 6 parts. Roll each part into 9" ropes. Tie loose knot in rope. Place 1"-2" apart on greased baking sheet. Let rise. Makes 24 rolls.

Divide like Knots above. But roll each piece to 12". Tie loose knot, then bring bottom end up and tuck it into center of roll. Take top piece and wrap around and then tuck it under. Place 1"-2" apart on greased cookie sheet. Let rise. Makes 24 rolls.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Divide each piece into 6 parts. Roll each part into 9" rope. Coil on greased baking sheet 1"-2" apart. Let rise. Makes 24 rolls.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Divide each piece into 6 parts. Roll each part into 12" rope. Fold rope in half and twist 3-4 times. Seal ends. Place 1"-2" apart on greased baking sheet. Let rise. Makes 24 rolls.

Flower rolls:
Divide dough into 4 pieces. Divide each piece into 6 parts. Roll each part into a ball. Place 2" apart on greased baking sheet. Let rise. Before baking use scissors to snip 6 slits, 3/4" deep around outside of rolls. Bake. Makes 24 rolls

Mini-Figure Eight rolls:
Divide dough into 4 pieces. Divide each piece into 6 parts. Roll each part into 12" rope. Pinch ends together to form circle. Twist once to make an 8. Place 1"-2" apart on greased baking sheet. Let rise. Makes 24 rolls.

Divide dough into 4 parts. Divide each part into 6 pieces. Roll dough out with rolling pin, use tortilla press, or a small heavy pan, covered with a floured, non-terry cloth towel to smash each piece to a 3" circle. Roll circle like you would a jelly-roll or crescent roll. Taper ends. Place 2" apart on greased baking sheet. Let rise. Right before baking make 2-3 diagonal slashes 1/2" - 3/4" deep in top of rolls. Makes 24 rolls.

Parker House Rolls:
Divide dough into 2 pieces. Roll into log and cut into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Roll dough out with rolling pin, use tortilla press, or a small heavy pan, covered with a floured towel to smash each piece to a 3" circle. Brush with melted butter. Then using the handle of a wooden spoon you will press the handle firmly into the buttered side of the dough, down the center of the circle - so that it divides the dough almost in half. Then take the top half and fold it over the bottom half - it will look like a flattened taco shell - with no place to put the meat. Place 1"-2" apart on greased baking sheet. Let rise. Makes 16 rolls.

Butterfly rolls:
Divide dough into two pieces. Roll each piece out into a 10" square. Brush square with melted butter. Roll up, jelly-roll fashion. With cut side down, divide each piece into 8 pieces. Take a wooden spoon handle and in center of long side, press down firmly, hard enough to cause the dough to start to fold over the spoon handle. Place 1"-2" apart on greased baking sheet. Let rise. Makes 16 rolls.

Use 1/2 cup portions. You can either knead desired seasonings or ingredients into dough before making sticks; or go ahead and roll dough into 1/2" thick ropes and cut to the desired length, then brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with desired topping(s): Parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic salt, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian Seasonings, sesame seeds, kosher salt, etc. Place the sticks onto a lightly greased baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Let rise 10-15 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 18 minutes.

Bread Stick Twists
Do bread sticks as above, but instead of making straight sticks out of them, make your rope, fold into a U shape and twist the dough. I would add flavors to the dough before twisting or top after twisting. You can then cut the twists into smaller pieces or leave longer. Place about 1" apart on greased baking sheet and let rise.

Hot pockets/calzones (that's Italian for hot pockets, giggle):
Divide the dough into 6-10 pieces. The number of pieces you choose will determine the size of the finished product. Roll each piece into a ball. For "Hot Pockets", roll dough into a rectangle 1/4 - 1/2" thick. For "Calzones", flatten balls in tortilla maker or roll out to 1/4 - 1/2" thick. Put the filling on 1/2 of the dough, NOT near any of the 3 edges on the hot pockets or near the edges of the semi-circle for the calzones. You want this area clear for sealing purposes. Place filling of choice on dough, then lightly wet edges of the half you just filled. Bring the top, unfilled half over the filled bottom half, getting the edges to meet. Then seal the edges with a fork. You can either fill them on your greased baking sheet or use a large spatula to transfer the filled dough to your baking sheet. If I were doing large ones (6 pieces of dough) I would opt for filling them on the sheet. Then I don't have to worry about tearing the dough when I move them. Let them rise for 10 mins to an hour and bake at 375 for 10-20 mins, until they are lightly browned. Some people fry these instead of baking them. To fry you would take the filled, risen dough and slide each one, one or two at a time into a deep fryer. Fry at 375 degrees until lightly browned.

Don't overfill or use a real runny filling , it will make the bread soggy. If your making 8 or 10 of these from the dough, don't use more than about 3-4 tbs total filling.
Don't over bake them, it will dry the bread out.
Don't get the crust too thick. Remember the crust will rise while it sits rising and in the oven. You can control how thick they get, in part by how long you let them rise as well as how thick/thin you rolled the out the dough. You don't want a little filling and two thick globs of bread. (Look under Fillings to find out how to salvage them if this happens.)

Also, you can also use biscuit dough or pie dough to make these. They will each have a different taste according to the type of dough you use.

Fillings: Look in the freezer section of the store and see what choices you like. Pizza ones are good - a Tbs or 2 of sauce, 1-2 Tbs of chopped pepperoni and 1-2Tbs of cheese, ham & cheese, vegies, sloppy joe mix, scrambled eggs, cheese & bacon/sausage - let your imagination go to work. (If you should get too much bread without enough filling and they taste dry, you can salvage them by using some dipping sauce that goes with the filling. Pizza sauce for the pizza ones, cheese sauce or mustard for the ham & cheese, white sauce for the egg, cheese and bacon one, etc.)

When done, they can be wrapped individually and frozen, then nuked or baked to reheat and eat. Most people nuke them, straight from the freezer for about 1 - 2 mins, but you lose some of the crispness when nuked. Baking keeps the crispness, but takes a lot longer to heat.

Cinnamon rolls
This is an extremely flexible recipe. Use the amounts of sweetener and butter that you feel are sufficient for your family. What is sweet to us, may be too sweet to you. What is buttery enough for you, may be too greasy for us. This is permission to eyeball it!

Up the sweetener in the dough to about 1/4 -1/3 cup total. Run it through the "dough" cycle on your machine. Roll the dough out in a rectangle to about 1/4" thick. Spread with softened butter or just dot the butter. Sprinkle with what ever amount/kind of sweetener you like on top of the butter, sprinkle some cinnamon on top of that. You can add some raisins if you like them. Then roll up one side. Cut it into 1"- 1 1/2" thick pinwheels. Place in greased, round cake pans, leaving a little room between the circles, and let rise until about double. Then bake at 350-375 until lightly browned on top. Bake about 10-20 mins depending on the temp and size of the rolls.

You can vary the size of the rolls by rolling either the long side or the short side. If you roll the long side, you will have less layers of dough, resulting in a smaller roll. If you roll the shorter side up - which is the traditional way of doing it, you will have a large cinnamon roll. Again, you can choose which way you want the rolls. If you're watching calories, diabetic or just want a smaller serving, roll it long way. You could probably place these small size rolls in a greased muffin tin instead of a round pan.
You can frost it with some powdered sugar and milk glaze, cream cheese glaze or what ever floats your family's boat.

Pecan rolls
Same as above, only substitute pecans for cinnamon. Place some brown sugar or honey and butter in the bottom of your round pans and place the cut rolls on top of the topping in the pans. When the rolls are done, take out and turn pan over so that the glaze will coat the rolls, not stick in the bottom of the pan. Again, sweeteners and butter are to your family's tastes.
I would probably use about 1/3 cup brown sugar and 3 tbs butter in the bottom of the pan. I would also put about 1/2 cup nuts in the bottom of the pan - before I placed the rolls in the pan to rise. If you choose to melt the butter before placing it in the pan, let it cool just a tad - so it doesn't kill the yeast in the section of the rolls that sit in the butter.

Honey buns
Same as for cinnamon rolls, but use honey instead of sugar in the recipe and use honey instead of brown sugar in the bottom of the pans.

Freezing these recipes
I've never frozen these particular recipes, but they are similar to other recipes that freeze well, so I see no reason they could not be frozen.
They can be frozen before baking. Just make sure you wrap them well so that they don't get freezer burn.

Freeze the bread dough either in a lump or shaped into bread (or pizza crust, etc.) and wrap. When you are ready to bake, take them out and place them in the appropriate size pan. You can thaw in the oven set to warm or let nature take it's course in the fridge overnight or on a counter top for a few hours. When double, bake at 350 until the item is done. (bread in a loaf pan takes longer than bread that is round, than rolls, than pizza dough. Usually, when it's lightly browned, it's done.)

Flash freeze cinnamon/honey/pecan/dinner rolls in slices on a cookie sheet - before they rise. When frozen, place in a Ziploc type bag and then you can take out however many you want, place in a pan and let rise until about double and then bake as usual.

Another of my tricks is to look at other recipes of the type I want to make and see how long it takes them to cook and at what temperature they are cooked at. Then when I make mine, it gives me a guideline for temp and times.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Top 100 Items to Disappear First During a National Emergency

A friend sent me this. I'm not sure where she got it from, but from from growing up in coastal Florida, (read hurricane-prone area) this seems to correlate with what I've seen.

After searching the web, I've found several sites with this same list on it. I can't find anyone who claims ownership of the list. If you know who owns the list, please let me know.

There are pros and cons to storing most of these items. Personally, I can't afford a generator and though as a rule, I'm ok with people owning guns, I was not ok about my little people and personally having a gun in the house. Now that they're older I might rethink it, but since the two oldest have ADHD and tend to do then think, probably not. kwim?

Here is one method of storing water and hiding the container that I use. I have an "end table". It's a 55 gal drum that has my water storage in it. It's in the corner of the living room (I have no basement. Outside it would freeze.) I have a patterned table cloth over it. For a while I had a twin sheet covering it, but something stained it and the unused table cloth was substituted. If I had the money, I would have a 1/2" - 3/4" piece of plywood cut to fit the top, so that the top is flat. Since this is a food grade storage container, the top does not come off it just has two 3" diameter openings that can be removed to access the liquid. So there's no chance of a child drowning in it.

I also have a clear plastic piece of hose that has two fittings, one on each end that you stick partially into the water, pump your arm up and down and it starts a siphon action going and you can drain the water out into another container (smaller one!) Saves sucking your brains out to get the water out and DEFINITELY better than trying to tip that container to pour some out.

While these are the first things to disappear, be careful about storing fuel, especially gas. There's really no good place to store it but underground in a special tank. If you store it inside your home, you're asking for a fire that would be out of control and also look like arson to an investigator. Gas is explosive as well as highly flammable. If you store it outside, it's subject to the elements and being stolen. The cans that Coleman fuel come in will rust. Once propane tanks are installed in a lantern or stove, they slowly lose propane. (You don't want to know how I know the last two things. )

I just found out that the reason for storing CLEAR lamp oil is that the dyes will clog the wick.

Question. Why would people buy "Survival in a Can" kits? Do they even know HOW to use what's in them? Take a look online to see what's in one. You can make one for a whole lot less and gear it to your climate and talents. I mean, if you live in the desert, what good is a fishing line with a hook attached? There's usually no place to fish, unless you're along a river with water in it and the water isn't: 1. muddy and 2. Flowing so fast that there's no place for the fish to feed. And do you know where to find bait for the hook? Unless you know a thing or two about fishing, you'll be wasting resources and time trying unsuccessfully to fish.
If you don't know how to "carry a fire", 4 matches won't get the job done. If it takes you half a box to start the charcoal grill, 4 matches won't go far. So make your own kit with what you know how to use. Store it in a coffee can, one liter soda bottle or fanny pack.

Better to make emergency kits, also known as 72 hr. kits and keep them with you. Make one for each member of your family and keep in a closet near the front door. Make one for the car and make a mini one for work/school. Then learn how to use the contents BEFORE the emergency arises. Make sure your kids know what to do and how to use anything in their kits.
I have my family's kits in backpacks. I also have a "camping" container in the hall closet. In an emergency, we can be out the door in under 5 mins., with tents, sleeping bags, backpacks and water. Actually, we can do it in less, but things like the port-a-potty which is outside, and scriptures and genealogy are likely to not get grabbed.

So as a family, I need to have us do an "emergency" evacuation. Take the 72 hr kit and go to a campground or friend's house for the weekend. Sleep in their yard and see what we need to do to tweak our kit. I also need to make a list of things to grab so we DON'T forget anything that doesn't live in the kits.

One thing I don't see on the list is Space Blankets. These handy little things are $1-$2. They are great things to have for an emergency. They will keep you warm, you can distill water with them, signal with them and a lot more. Combine with duct tape, and MacGyver would be proud to have you along! Seriously, I bet they are also a fast disappearing item. For while they will keep you warm, they can also help keep you cool. Tape over your window and it blocks the sun's rays out. Keep several in the car just for that purpose.

Top 100 Items to Disappear First During a National Emergency

1. Generators (Good ones cost dearly. Gas storage, risky. of thieves; maintenance etc.)
2. Water Filters/Purifiers
3. Portable Toilets
4. Seasoned Firewood. Wood takes about 6 - 12 months to become dried, for home uses.
5. Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps (First Choice: Buy CLEAR oil. If scarce, stockpile ANY!)
6. Coleman Fuel. Impossible to stockpile too much.
7. Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots.
8. Hand-can openers, & hand egg beaters, whisks.
9. Honey/Syrups/white, brown sugar
10. Rice - Beans - Wheat
11. Vegetable Oil (for cooking) Without it food burns/must be boiled etc.,)
12. Charcoal, Lighter Fluid (Will become scarce suddenly)
13. Water Containers (Urgent Item to obtain.) Any size. Small: HARD CLEAR PLASTIC ONLY - note - food grade if for drinking.
16. Propane Cylinders (Urgent: Definite shortages will occur.)
17. Survival Guide Book.
18. Mantles: Aladdin, Coleman, etc. (Without this item, longer-term lighting is difficult.)
19. Baby Supplies: Diapers/formula. ointments/aspirin, etc.
20. Washboards, Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)
21. Cookstoves (Propane, Coleman & Kerosene)
22. Vitamins
23. Propane Cylinder Handle-Holder (Urgent: Small canister use is dangerous without this item)
24. Feminine Hygiene/Haircare/Skin products.
25. Thermal underwear (Tops & Bottoms)
26. Bow saws, axes and hatchets, Wedges (also, honing oil)
27. Aluminum Foil Reg. & Heavy Duty (Great Cooking and Barter Item)
28. Gasoline Containers (Plastic & Metal)
29. Garbage Bags (Impossible To Have Too Many).
30. Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Paper Towels
31. Milk - Powdered & Condensed (Shake Liquid every 3 to 4 months)
32. Garden Seeds (Non-Hybrid) (A MUST)
33. Clothes pins/line/hangers (A MUST)
34. Coleman's Pump Repair Kit
35. Tuna Fish (in oil)
36. Fire Extinguishers (or..large box of Baking Soda in every room)
37. First aid kits
38. Batteries (all furthest-out for Expiration Dates)
39. Garlic, spices & vinegar, baking supplies
40. Big Dogs (and plenty of dog food)
41. Flour, yeast & salt
42. Matches. {"Strike Anywhere" preferred.) Boxed, wooden matches will go first
43. Writing paper/pads/pencils, solar calculators
44. Insulated ice chests (good for keeping items from freezing in Wintertime.)
45. Workboots, belts, Levis & durable shirts
46. Flashlights/LIGHTSTICKS & torches, "No. 76 Dietz" Lanterns
47. Journals, Diaries & Scrapbooks (jot down ideas, feelings, experience; Historic Times)
48. Garbage cans Plastic (great for storage, water, transporting - if with wheels)
49. Men's Hygiene: Shampoo, Toothbrush/paste, Mouthwash/floss, nail clippers, etc
50. Cast iron cookware (sturdy, efficient)
51. Fishing supplies/tools
52. Mosquito coils/repellent, sprays/creams
53. Duct Tape
54. Tarps/stakes/twine/nails/rope/spikes
55. Candles
56. Laundry Detergent (liquid)
57. Backpacks, Duffel Bags
58. Garden tools & supplies
59. Scissors, fabrics & sewing supplies
60. Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, etc.
61. Bleach (plain, NOT scented: 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite)
62. Canning supplies, (Jars/lids/wax)
63. Knives & Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel
64. Bicycles...Tires/tubes/pumps/chains, etc
65. Sleeping Bags & blankets/pillows/mats
66. Carbon Monoxide Alarm (battery powered)
67. Board Games, Cards, Dice
68. d-con Rat poison, MOUSE PRUFE II, Roach Killer
69. Mousetraps, Ant traps & cockroach magnets
70. Paper plates/cups/utensils (stock up, folks)
71. Baby wipes, oils, waterless & Antibacterial soap (saves a lot of water)
72. Rain gear, rubberized boots, etc.
73. Shaving supplies (razors & creams, talc, after shave)
74. Hand pumps & siphons (for water and for fuels)
75. Soysauce, vinegar, bullions/gravy/soupbase
76. Reading glasses
77. Chocolate/Cocoa/Tang/Punch (water enhancers)
78. "Survival-in-a-Can"
79. Woolen clothing, scarves/ear-muffs/mittens
80. Boy Scout Handbook, / also Leaders Catalog
81. Roll-on Window Insulation Kit (MANCO)
82. Graham crackers, saltines, pretzels, Trail mix/Jerky
83. Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Nuts
84. Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc. (extras)
85. Lumber (all types)
86. Wagons & carts (for transport to and from)
87. Cots & Inflatable mattress's
88. Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, etc.
89. Lantern Hangers
90. Screen Patches, glue, nails, screws,, nuts & bolts
91. Teas
92. Coffee
93. Cigarettes
94. Wine/Liquors (for bribes, medicinal, etc,)
95. Paraffin wax
96. Glue, nails, nuts, bolts, screws, etc.
97. Chewing gum/candies
98. Atomizers (for cooling/bathing)
99. Hats & cotton neckerchiefs
100. Livestock

Whole wheat pizza dough that works like white flour dough (Edited 10/22/11)

Edited 10/22/11 to add forgotten honey to recipe.

Pizza dough
Leave out the sweeteners in any bread recipe and you've got pizza dough. So I'm going to use my Whole wheat sandwich dough recipe from the earlier of today's post.

Whole wheat sandwich bread (ABM)

1 1/4 cups water tepid water
2 Tbs olive oil (or any oil)
2 Tbs Honey (I used Orange Blossom Honey) Can use sugar, agave, etc.
1 Tbs Vital wheat gluten (Necessary if you want a "foldable" bread, this is what makes the bread have the consistency of store bread and rise to normal heights)
1 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour (I grind my own!)
1 1/2 tsp yeast (I keep mine in the freezer, along with any extra wheat)

Put into bread machine in order listed. Use whole wheat setting and I turn my crust color to "light". I start the machine and watch it to make sure I don't need to add a tsp more water or a Tbs more flour. Depending on your climate you may need to adjust the water/flour to make a proper loaf. It should ball up on the spindle, not be a wet mush on the bottom. It should be slightly "tacky" when you touch the loaf (yes, while it's spinning you can touch it and tell) and the dough should be moving around in relationship to the spindle (not just spinning on top of it). There's some room in between these two points, so don't worry if it's not exact. Don't be too quick to add water to whole wheat. It takes about 4 mins of kneading on my machine before I add flour or water. Mostly, I've needed to add flour, so I cut down on the water in the original recipe. It takes about 4-5 mins for the wheat to absorb the water and equalize out. My dough always looks like it's WAYYY too dry, but then needed extra flour. So I cut the water from 1 1/3 cups to 1 1/4 cups stated and it worked out better for my kitchen.

I left out the sweetener and the milk powder. I think that the vital gluten will help stop the crumbling whole wheat crust will do if it's not in there.
I just found out that you need to add 3 tbs more water to this if you take out honey. The honey is a liquid and I had to replace it. I wasn't getting the proper action on the paddle in the ABM. The dough was just spinning on top of the spindle and not kneading around, so I added 3 Tbs of water and it's working fine. And I forgot to add the lecithin.

We just put the pizzas in. I made one in a 12" cast iron skillet. My son used the rest of the dough to put in a 9x13 pan. They're in a 425 oven for 15-20 mins.

I did notice that the dough, which I forgot about while writing this blog; was stiffer than normal pizza dough. It was wanting to "bounce back" as I tried to put it in the pan. Not really badly, just enough to catch my attention. The dough was left to run the full dough cycle in my machine. I noticed that this dough didn't rise in the cast iron pan, but then, I patted out the dough, topped it and baked it without letting it rise first. With white flour, the dough rises in the oven enough to make a "pan" pizza. With the whole wheat, it made one of "hand tossed" consistency, where it rose a tad, but never thickened. If I want a pan pizza, next time, I'll let it rise for about 10 mins before topping it and baking it.

Ok, this is GOOD pizza. The crust holds together like I thought it would, is tender, yet it's all whole wheat. Flavor is excellent.

Son's comment: "it tastes like regular pizza dough. I really can't taste the difference."

Score one for mom! Nutrition + taste + texture is right.

Whole wheat sandwich bread ABM (foldable bread!)

OOPS, This is NOT about pesticides organic or otherwise. I'll get to that post at a later date. lol
Instead I'm going to address a food storage problem and a solution I found that works for my family.

One of the problems with having food storage is eating what you've stored. There are two factors in play. One is that it does take longer to fix these foods. Longer than take-out or nuke and eat from the store. The other is that the textures aren't always what we're use to.
At the forefront of complaints is whole wheat bread. It tends to fall apart crumb by crumb and it can't be slice it too thinly. So you've got a crumbly, too thick sandwich and yuck, no one wants to eat it.

I've been trying to eat a more healthy diet and have started using the wheat in my food storage supply. After two weeks of homemade bread, with week one being made with white flour, we needed some bread - fast. So I went to the store and bought the same bread I've been buying for the last 12 years. (12 years being the length of time we've lived in Blue Ridge.) We opened it up and tried some. "YUCK" was the pronouncement from my 18 dd and 15 ds. They have decided that they no longer want store bread! (mom does happy dance) One of the things that converted them was that I've found a way of making whole wheat bread that is "foldable". Like regular sandwich bread that will fold and not break or crumble up. I thought that there might be some others that would like this recipe or like to try and wean their family from the store bought white bread monster.

So here is the recipe I used for the white bread and then the recipe for the whole wheat.
I've given some tips on how to make these recipes by hand - for those that don't have/don't use a bread machine, as well as some of my other "short cuts".
Oh, by the way, these each make a 1 1/2lb loaf.

This is a recipe I adapted from a basic Amish white bread recipe.
Basic White Bread (ABM)
1 cup tepid water
2 Tbs oil (I use olive oil)
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar (or honey, molasses or other sweetener)
2 Tbs Vital Gluten
3 Cups flour (regular flour. If you have bread flour, you can skip the vital gluten)
1 1/2 tsp yeast
Place in pan, in order listed. I use regular setting, light crust on my machine. Start machine and let it run for a couple of minutes to blend ingredients. Then check and make sure dough is not too wet/dry. (too wet is when you've got a puddle of dough at the bottom of the spindle. Too dry is when the bread sits on top of the spindle and spins, but doesn't move on the spindle. It should move up and down and change shape while spinning with the spindle. Also, if it's not "tacky" to the touch, it's too dry. Between the two extremes is a lot of leeway, so don't be afraid to adjust the recipe, so just add water by the tsp and flour by the tbs . Also, give it about 2 -3 mins after doing an addition to make sure what you just added is incorporated before you do anything else to it and you'll be ok.

Whole wheat sandwich bread (ABM)
1 1/4 cups water tepid water
2 Tbs olive oil (or any oil)
3 Tbs orange Blossom honey (or your favorite flavor)
2 Tbs lecithin (can omit. Get it at health food store. $8 for a huge bottle of powder helps it to rise better)
1 Tbs Vital wheat gluten (Necessary if you want a "foldable" bread, this is what makes the bread have the consistency of store bread and rise to normal heights)
2 Tbs powdered milk (opt)
1 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour (I grind my own!)
1 1/2 tsp yeast (I keep mine in the freezer, along with any extra wheat)

Put into bread machine in order listed. Use whole wheat setting and I turn my crust color to "light". I start the machine and watch it to make sure I don't need to add a tsp more water or a Tbs more flour. Depending on your climate you may need to adjust the water/flour to make a proper loaf. It should ball up on the spindle, not be a wet mush on the bottom. It should be slightly "tacky" when you touch the loaf (yes, while it's spinning you can touch it and tell) and the dough should be moving around in relationship to the spindle (not just spinning on top of it). There's some room in between these two points, so don't worry if it's not exact. Don't be too quick to add water to whole wheat. It takes about 4 mins of kneading on my machine before I add flour or water. Mostly, I've needed to add flour, so I cut down on the water in the original recipe. It takes about 4-5 mins for the wheat to absorb the water and equalize out. My dough always looks like it's WAYYY too dry, but then needed extra flour. So I cut the water from 1 1/3 cups to 1 1/4 cups stated and it worked out better for my kitchen.

NOTES: you may need to adjust the amount of yeast, up or down according to how YOUR machine works. I find that I have to change my amount down from any given recipe. Most recipes call for about 2 tsp of yeast. This makes MY loaves collapse, so I've lowered the amount for MY machine. If you find that you need to add more yeast in the next batch, do so. You may find your machine requires even less than my machine does, so next time, use less. I adjust the yeast down by 1/4 tsp at a time, until my bread quits collapsing.

Also, I use a knife to do a more exact measurement. I get the yeast on my measuring spoon and then use the flat of the knife resting on the top of the spoon to scrape off any excess. What is left under the knife will be the correct amount. (instead of the time honored load the spoon and "shake" any excess off.) I measure all the dry ingredients this same way, using a knife to level the ingredient off.

Bread machines are picky about measurements. It's due to the fact that you can't just change the timing if the bread rises faster than the machine is set for. If you make this loaf by hand, you can get away with the "scoop and shake" method because you determine when it goes into the oven.

I found out that I don't need water that "feels warm" for my machine. If I use water that "feels warm" it's too warm and my bread rises too fast. Our bodies are 98.6 or there abouts. So the 96 degree water won't feel warm to our hands. We just don't want the water "cold". Again, if you make it by hand, you have greater freedom in the temp. Just don't get it too hot or it will kill the yeastie beasties.

I keep my yeast in the freezer. I bring home the 2 pack of 1lb yeast from Sam's and put it directly in the freezer. The yeast I'm using now (and having to cut back on) is 4 YEARS OUT of date! I keep mine in the original mylar bags. When I open one, I fold down the top of the bag as far as it will go and use a spring type clothes pin to close the bag, then put the bag in a ziplock and plop it back into the freezer.

I also keep my freshly ground whole wheat in the freezer, along with the powdered milk.

Another of my tricks is that once I have the recipe down to where it works consistently on my machine, I will sack up the dry ingredients in ziplocks and store those in the freezer. It usually takes about 4 loaves of bread to adjust a new recipe so that it works consistently. Anyway, when I make one loaf for the pan, I make another 7 for the freezer. That will last us about 4 days at 2 loaves a day. When I make the mixes, I will close the bag and then either shake it well or knead it to mix all the ingredients together. Then I keep the recipe on the cupboard door over where the bread machine sits. Since the wet ingredients are on the top of the list, I just go down the list to where the dry ingredients start. That's when you add the package of "mix" to your machine. The next time I need to make packets, there the recipe is, right on the cupboard door! We also keep a pizza dough recipe on the same cupboard door - we mix that in the machine and then transfer the portions to our cast iron skillets for baking. And for those that are offended at the idea of 3x5 cards taped on their nice cabinet fronts, you can open the cabinet door and place them on the inside of the door. Then they are not visible, but still readily handy. (If I had a nice, matching kitchen, I probably wouldn't put it on the outside of MY doors either. But since my "kitchen" consists of 4 cabinets, and 3 pieces of counter top 16", 24" and 31" long, what the heck. Two pieces of paper on a cabinet door are the least of my problems. lol)

You can make this recipe by hand, your just going to have to knead it for about 10 mins and let it rise for about 30 mins, then knead it again for about 5 mins and let it rise again before shaping it, letting it rise a third time for about 45 mins and then baking it. Or you can cheat and only let it rise once before shaping it. Your call. The more you go through the kneaded and letting it rise cycle, the fine the bread texture will be.

Also, if you're making bread by hand, stir the yeast to the dry ingredients. Just stir the dry ingredients well and then add the liquids. As long as you know the yeast is good, you don't have to "proof" it by putting it in some sugared water and trying to dissolve the yeast into the water. To me, it makes a gooey mess and you have to keep scraping it off the spoon to get the yeast back into the water. I've got better things to do for 5 mins than muck around with that process, so I skip it. But again, I know I've got good yeast. YMMV.

If you want a softer bread crust, exchange the oil/shortening/fats for real mayo - measure for measure. (1/4 cup for 1/4c, etc.) Make sure it's not Miracle Whip, not low fat/no fat, but REAL mayo. The bread crust will stay soft when it cools. You can also sub this in your biscuits and it will keep them soft too. My kids claim they can taste the mayo - which they will not eat for a million bucks, but I can't taste it in there. I used it for years but until they saw me put it in, they never complained. Again, ymmv.

I found a bunch of different ways to shape bread recipes into different style rolls. I decided to move those ideas to a different page. It will make them easier to find later.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Poor soil and Square Foot Gardening

I had a friend write: We have Georgia red clay for soil in our small family garden and are having trouble getting things to grow. Do you have any suggestions for those of us with poor soil conditions?

I lived in North Florida for 16 years. We actually lived closer to the Georgia border than to Tallahassee. So I dealt with that wonderful red clay myself. Also, I grew up near St. Petersburg, FL and dealt with the sandy soil that we had there, too.

Basically the solution to poor soil has these possible remedies - just keep using the poor soil and learn to grow what will grow in it, amend it or replace it.

Keep using it:

There are varieties of plants native to the area where you are trying to grow your own plants. Go to the local Extension Agent and they can tell you what varieties of fruits, vegetable, and flowers will grow well in your area. Planting what grows in your area will be of some help.

The County Extension Agent is a good resource for gardening information. They are sponsored by the State land college and have a lot of free information about everything that grows well in your state. These guys have a degree in agriculture. The ones I have know have been around the block a few times and can teach you anything you want to know about gardening. They even sponsor a "Master Gardener" program. At one time, when I lived in Florida, I was a "Master Gardener". I went through a course of about 8 weeks of intensive training and then could volunteer to work in the office, answering the phones and helping walk-ins with their questions to help out the agent. If I had a question that I didn't know the answer to, I could ask the agent. They can do soil tests, test for nematodes and other pests in your soil and some will send in water samples to be tests (for those who would like their wells tested).

Amend it:

You can and probably should be using a compost heap or bin. However, for myself, I found that my kitchen scraps were being given to the chickens and dog to eat, so there wasn't much left over to compost. We don't drink coffee or tea, so the only thing to compost would have been grass clippings, which I fed to the chickens too. (Boy did we have some NICE eggs!)

At one point, when I didn't have any chickens, I would take my kitchen scraps and dig a hole in the garden and bury it. Waited a couple of months to plant in that area and it was "composed" into the soil.

If you Google compost plans you can find all sorts of information on composting and all sorts of gadgets that you can make to help in the process. Composting is as simple as digging a hole like I did for bits and bobs of scraps; to as complicated as metal drums on a axle that rotate the compost. You can make it as easy/free or as complicated/expensive as fits your style and pocketbook. I'm a single mom, free is all I can afford.

Here are a few sites to start you off:

If you have friends that have animals - horses, goats, rabbits, even the chickens, you can also amend the soil with their manure. We had rabbits and chickens and would use that to add to the garden. Also when you clean you fish tank, the water removed will also make a good fertilizer. A note about chicken "poo", unless your putting it on corn, it MUST be allowed to mellow first or it will burn your crops.

Replace it:

First off, my favorite method of gardening is called Square Foot Gardening. I've used this method for years and had great results. Here's Mel's website:

Ok, so where does "replace it" as pertaining to soil come into the picture? It's in the way I square foot garden.

We've already established that I have no money and that I like being frugal - it's what allows me to make the most of the money I do have.

So to make my square foot gardens, over the years, I have done several different things.

My first square foot garden was made out of discarded pallets. I worked for the Tallahassee Democrat, the local newspaper. We had broken pallets in a pile and I merely asked permission to haul them off.
I then took the pallets and recycled them using a hammer to separate them into boards. I then buried about 1" or so of the 4' side of the board. The pallets are 4' x 4', the size recommended for the square, which means that the boards were 4' long, so I butted the ends together and I had my "square" for gardening. This was then filled with soil I dug up from where the squares were, along with a few bags of top soil I bought at the garden center mixed in. For 2 "squares", this wasn't costly.

For my next garden, I was living on my own land and by then I had married. My husband worked across the street from a place that made cement blocks. He noticed that there were piles of discarded blocks laying in a pile. They were the cast-offs that had a broken corner, a chip, crack, or other flaw in it. So he asked the owner if he could have them. He'd haul 3 or 4 at a time home in the car or truck. (He only took a few at a time to keep from overloading the car and messing up the axle.)

We then built our 4' x 4' squares out of these blocks. We stacked them with the openings facing up, 2 high. At the time I was pregnant and at that height, I didn't have to bend down quite so far to work the garden. We didn't bother to use mortar to hold the blocks together, we just butted them next to each other and stacked them on top of each other. When we were filling the squares, I also put dirt down the holes in the cinder blocks, giving me some extra space to put plant and the extra weight down the two sides of the block helped stabilize the bricks even more. Surprisingly, this arrangement was very stable. By the time we moved from there, my oldest was 5, loved to work in the garden and we never had any movement in the blocks.

After we got our squares built, we had a dump truck load of top soil/mushroom compost delivered. This was almost 20 years ago so the $5 I paid then is not going to do it now. But I wouldn't think it would be over $30 for a load of dirt, delivered.
This is indeed a lot of dirt. We were able to fill nine 4' x 4' x 24" squares.

How well did this arrangement grow food? Well, we got buzzed by the Drug Enforcement agency. I heard the chopper overhead and looked out the door. He was over the garden at about 50', so I went out and moved the tomato plant over, pull a tomato off and held it up for him to see. Then I went to the green peppers and pulled one off and again showed it to him. He grinned, waved and signaled the pilot and off they went. lol

The nice thing about using the square foot method with the cinder blocks is that I never touched the soil at the bottom of the blocks. I put the cinder blocks down, then simply filled the square with the top soil/compost on top of the ground. I never turned it in, so it wasn't "diluted" with the clay soil.

Time passed and I took my children and left an abusive marriage. By then, we were in north Georgia. Where I live, we're not allowed to dig up any of the ground for a garden, but I can have containers with plants in them. Square Foot gardening continues with 55 gal barrels cut in half. This time, I've had to use some of the local clay-filled dirt. But into it I've mixed vermiculite, top soil and compost from the garden center. This was more expensive, but done over the course of several years, it was manageable. And it has improved the quality of the soil. I've since been able to get 2 barrels that were cut in half filled with dirt and I now plant some herbs, tomatoes, peas and carrots in them. It's not much, but it's nice to have something homegrown.

A very nice thing about Square Foot or intensive gardening is that since you're never walking on the soil, your never compacting it. It's easy to water, easy to see any bugs on your plants which you then pick off the plant (and feed to the chickens lol). And it's easy to replant. You need no special tools to work this garden. No hoes, shovels, rakes, etc. I garden with an old tablespoon and my garden hose.
The garden squares can be done in beds raised up on "horses" (those things construction workers use to prop stuff up with. aka "saw horses".) to accommodate wheelchair uses, or, like my first one, with just boards on the ground. See Mel's book "Square Foot Gardening" for more information and for spacing requirements for each type of plant.

No, I'm not a paid endorser for this method, it's just a system that has worked better than the rototilled, hoed, raked, planted, thinned gardens that I use to try to work.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss organic ways to rid the garden of pests. (Animal/insect types. You're on your own with the neighborhood kids!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Summer kitchens

My it sure is hot outside! Here in North Georgia, it's been in the low 100's. Kitchens are heating up and are not fun places to work in. Makes you wonder how the old folks managed before a/c.

Well here's how they did it:

Summer Kitchens.

What was a summer kitchen? Basically it was anything from a nice screened-in "room" that was built away from the house to a shady part of the yard. And that shady spot could have been natural from the trees or man-made from a sheet, tarp or other large, shade producing item.

I saw one that was a room with cement floors, a roof and half-walls with screens for the upper half. It had a regular kitchen in it with a large fireplace, full commercial stove, counter space, cabinet space, fridge, a place to hang meat and room for several picnic tables. It was easier to butcher a deer or hog inside the screening that it was outside or in a regular kitchen.
They just plugged in a couple of fans and to work they went. They butchered the animal and proceeded to either wrap the meat for freezing or canned all the meat. When they were done, they took a hose, sprayed off the table tops and the floor and were good to go. You know it had to of cost a small fortune to build it.

Then there were friends of mine.
Hubby liked to take his air boat and kids out to Appalachia bay and net mullet. Then he'd come home and needed a place to clean the fish before he'd present them to his wife for meals or the freezer. Well, with 6 kids an only a landscaping business to support them, money was tight and so he just "made do". All it took was a little ingenuity from him and he had himself a great spot to clean the fish - as well as a spot to clean up after working on his equipment or yard.
He simply built his "kitchen" behind a shed he had and used a salvaged sink with a faucet, a hose, coupler, some pvc he had laying around and a chunk of smooth wood. He used the hose and coupler to hook up water to the sink. He used the pvc to funnel the drained water away from his shed, he propped the sink up on some old blocks he had, the smooth wood he used as his chopping block. The kitchen and fire ring on the back side of the shed were was shaded by some trees.
The fire pit was far enough away from the tree (and it's roots!) so that he could safely make a fire and they would sometimes cook some of the fish over that. They also used the pit for cooking outside - a fun thing to do. The sink was right there to use to clean up. In lieu of camping, they could eat outside and sleep in their OWN bed. Not so many skeeters that way!

Here is a copy of an email that I mailed to one of the Yahoo! groups I'm in. The question was posed about a dangerously hot kitchen and wanting some recipes that they didn't need to cook. My suggestion was as follows:

Here in the Southern US, it gets very hot as well as humid. Inside an old house was no place to cook in the summer. So they had something called a summer kitchen. It was an outbuilding or just a shaded area that was used to cook outside.

You could duplicate that with anything from an overhang on the back side of the house or a screened in porch to a purchased dining fly, to a tarp, to just a sheet or two and some clothes line. You'll also want some kind of a small table or two to set your stove on and to prepare items and hold equipment.

Find or make a shady spot, set up a "Camp stove" - you know the kind with propane or bottled gas. They even have "ovens" that go on top of these stoves. Or use a dutch oven to bake or cook in. You can use one of those on top of the camp stove or use charcoal briquets on and/or under it - I once heated some coals, then set them on a piece of foil on my porch, put the dutch oven over the coals, then put some more briquets on top of the oven. It worked just fine.

Google "dutch oven recipes" and you can find instructions for using a dutch oven and ideas for meals. The MacScouter site below is good! You can use a firepit, BBQ, grill or other source of heat.

You can also:

use a Scout Box oven:
this site has several different ways to make one. Has recipes listed below the instructions for making an oven.

You can also use a Nesco roaster, an electric skillet, a crockpot, or a toaster oven outside, under some shade - on a porch or under a tarp. Just make sure rain can't get to it and short out the electricity.Personally, I wouldn't use anything electrical outside if there was a chance of rain.

Use a "solar oven":
has recipes as well as instructions for making your own.

obviously, this type cooker needs to be in direct sunlight to do the cooking.

(these are all homemade affairs, but you can spend money and buy one of the above rather than make your own. At my house, lack of money is a factor in all that we do, hence the "make-your-own" approach!)

Most "baking" can be done in a variety of ways. The object of baking is that there is heat on top and bottom of what is being cooked and that there is some space between the heat and the food. The object here would be to "bake" a lot on one day and then put it in the freezer. When I heat up my smoker/grill, I cook several things on it, in succession. That way, I'm not wasting a full pan of coals for some ribs. Same with the gas grill. I'll make several meals worth of meat/vegies and then freeze the rest. These can then be eaten thawed or reheated on any of the above stoves or ovens or in the microwave.

And yes, you can cook anything in these alternate ways. You can make pies, cakes, brownies and bread-stuffs as well as meats and vegies. I've cooked biscuits and rolls in a dutch oven. It will take a little tinkering with times to get it right, but then it took the same kind of tinkering to learn to cook with a regular oven/range too. And I've found that when I change ranges/ovens I also have a few trial and error adjustments that have to be made. (My new stove is hotter than my old one was and I've had to learn to set the temp gauge lower than the recipe calls for and also to check one the food sooner than the time indicated.

One comment about charcoal. I've always bought the off-brands of charcoal. Then last year I found one of the "name brands" on sale and bought some of those. What a difference! Even thought the "name brand" cost more, it cooked longer and with a better, more consistent heat.
You will want that consistent heat to gauge how many pieces of charcoal to place under/on your dutch oven. Having said that, the pioneers used whatever they found to heat their dutch ovens and it worked out. You do need to practice with them to get consistent results. I'd suggest you start with good briquets and then, when you get good with those, you can go to a lesser brand or even just coals from wood that you have burned.

Learning to blog

It's funny how life goes full circle.
When my first-born was little, I was responsible for teaching her all she needed to know to start the progression to adulthood. I fussed when her clothes didn't match, cleaned her face when it was dirty, combed her hair when it was messy and in general, hovered about her as mothers are wont to do.

18 years later, the shoe is on the other foot! She now brushes and braids my knee-length hair, says "no!" when I wear something that she thinks doesn't go together and in general fusses over me. I guess she thinks that turning 54 makes me old and in need of fussing over. Or maybe it's just the mother-daughter dance that mothers and daughters do with each other.

Perhaps it's that there are things she is good at that I'm not so good at doing. She has a natural flair for what looks good. She learns the ins and outs of new technology faster than I do. She's well versed on finding and doing certain things on the internet. (Though I am quite internet savvy, mechanically inclined and I can still repair broken computers better than she can!) lol

Then to add to the whole arena of "lack of knowledge", there's the not knowing current slang, current actors and heaven forbid, certain singing sensations. No wonder they think we don't know "anything". We don't - at least, we don't know what is currently in "fashion" and since we have to ask them who or what is..., no wonder they think we don't know squat.

The young don't count all the things we elders know that they don't, they only see that they know things that seem so easy and that we elders have to be shown a time or two to "get it". Since it's so easy for them and harder for us, we must know less than they do. Logical, right? No wonder they alternately fuss over us or ignore what we say. Remember when we felt the same way about our "elders"? Then when we got to about 26, remember how much smarter these "elders" started becoming? And by the time our own kids were teens, didn't said "elders" become absolute geniuses in our eyes?

Today I wanted to subscribe to a blog that I had just found and had no idea how to do it. So guess whom I called to come sit beside me and help me find what I needed. In the midst of trying to find out how to subscribe to the blog I wanted, dear daughter decided that I needed a blog of my own and so this blog was born. That way I could "link it" to my own site.

I'm not much of a writer. In fact, when I was in school I hated composition. I'd get blank pageitis. My mind couldn't think of a thing to write. It will be interesting to see where the blog ends up, to see if a blank page still leaves me staring off into space. Or is that just me taking a quick nap? lol

Hopefully, I'll learn to post recipes, ideas about "old-fashion" skills like making bread, sewing, making soap,preserving foods,food storage ideas, 72 hr kits and other homemaking necessities, as well as, learn to format a page, put up pictures and make links to other blogs as well as have people link to me.

So here's to the birth of a new blog and blogger. May it grow and prosper; may I enjoy writing it and you enjoy reading it.