Diversions Welcomed

Diversion:  “An instance of turning something aside from its course -or- an activity that diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns; a recreation or pastime.”

These are the moments in my day when ideas spark. Creativity shines. When the “I should be…”, becomes a captured photo, a creative twist on a recipe or a fun little project. These are the sunny spots that add warmth to my life. They help define who I am.

And this is my opportunity to share my “Sunny Diversions”.

 

Exceptional! Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Every once in a while, a recipe gets better when you have to make a substitution, due to lack of the proper ingredient in your pantry. That is how my Chocolate Crinkle cookies when from good to exceptional! I only had a small amount of vegetable oil left, and I really wanted a chocolate cookie. I substituted two thirds of the oil with softened butter. The result was a better flavored, soft cookie that stayed moist and chewy for days.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1/2 c. softened butter
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. cocoa
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
*powdered sugar for coating cookies

Cream butter, vegetable oil, sugar and cocoa together. Fold in eggs, one at a time until smooth. Add vanilla and stir. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients, about 1/2 cup at a time until blended. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill at least 3 hours or overnight. Drop teaspoons of dough into powdered sugar and roll into balls. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Do not over bake. Place warm cookies on baking rack to cool. Store in tightly sealed container. Makes approximately 3 1/2 to 4 dozen.


*These roll well in granulated sugar, too. The last time I baked them, I divided the dough in half and made one half rolled in powdered sugar and one half in granulated.   Although there was not much difference in flavor, they did look nice when served together.

 

 

 

“Oat-standing” Bread (Triple Oatmeal Bread)

I always have enjoyed oatmeal bread, but have never found one that had quite enough oat flavor to satisfy me. This winter my bread making goal was to come up with an oatmeal bread that did just that. It took a few experiments to get the balance right, and now that spring has arrived I am ready to publish.  I settled on a combination of three types of oats; old-fashioned oatmeal, oat flour and steel cut oats. The cooked steel cut oats added a nice texture and all three gave enough oat flavor to the bread.  The applesauce and brown sugar add the sweetness needed to make the oats shine. Since the recipe turned out to make three loaves, I made one loaf in to a cinnamon swirl bread.  I am ready to make up another batch, because this bread has become another hit with my family, or as my son put it “Oat-standing”.

Triple Oatmeal Bread

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup oat flour
6 cups bread flour (plus extra for kneading)
1/4 cup buttermilk powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup cooked steel cut oats*
1 1/3 cups warm water
1/2 cup applesauce
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon yeast

In large bowl, sprinkle yeast on top of warm water. Let sit for five minutes to start activation. Stir in applesauce, brown sugar and cooked oatmeal. In separate bowl, mix bread flour with oat flour, old-fashioned oats, buttermilk powder and salt. Add one cup of flour mix at a time to wet ingredients until incorporated into a nicely shaped dough ball, Take dough ball out of bowl and knead on a lightly floured board for eight minutes. Place in large greased bowl and let rise in warm, draft free area until doubled. Punch down and shape into three loaves. Place each loaf into a 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 greased bread pan. Cover pans with towel and again let rise until doubled in a warm draft-free place. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350º.

*I made up a batch of steel cut oats and froze them in one cup containers for my experimental loaves. A thaw in the microwave and they were ready to use.

For Cinnamon Swirl Loaf:

Roll one loaf out into rectangle that is 8″x 20″. Beat egg yolk mixed with one tablespoon of water and brush a thin layer onto the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and raisins. Roll tightly and seal edges. Place in loaf pan and let rise until doubled. Bake the same as the regular loaves.

No Longer Stumped

Last year, a storm took down a major part of a large, Snow Crabapple tree in our yard. Later, the remaining part of the tree was cut down, leaving a large stump. Lately, I have been pondering what I could do with the leftover stump. The top of the stump has a hollowed out spot with some good, loose organic material. My first thought was to buy an ivy and let it trail down the side of the trunk. But, before I headed to the greenhouse to pick one out, I thought about the morning glory starts that were coming up from last years seeds in the side garden. I dug up 5 little seedlings, and planted them in the top. I covered the soil with a few cedar chips and gave them some water.

I’m hoping to have beautiful blue flowers trailing on the old stump by mid summer.

A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Here’s How to Plant a Basket

When thrift shopping, I keep my eyes open for wicker or twig baskets, that would be suitable for summer planting. I found three that would make wonderful planters.  Two for my parents to use on their deck and one for the front of our house.

To begin my project, I needed to line each basket so the soil would not fall out. My husband offered a large, heavyweight, contractor garbage bag, which was just the right thickness.  I cut the side and the bottom of the bag so I would have one sheet of plastic. Next, I trimmed the plastic to be large enough to cover the inside of each of the baskets and leave a one inch border to fold over. The plastic was tucked and folded so it fit nicely into each basket. Using small upholstery tacks and a hammer, I secured the plastic to the wicker. I tried to find areas where the wicker was thicker so there was enough material to tap the tack into. The tacks were placed about 2-3 inches apart.

After the plastic was tacked in, I poked several small holes in the bottom of the plastic for water drainage. Then I filled the baskets with potting soil. I have found it is not worth trying to save a few dollars on potting soil. The better the soil the nicer the plants. I used the moisture control soil with added fertilizer.

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Finally, I was ready to plant my flowers. The bigger baskets were treated to a variety of plants; petunias, geraniums, verbena, cosmos and zinnias. The smaller basket was just right for two, beautiful hot pink geraniums.  Many of the plants were not yet in bloom, but that is how I prefer it. I enjoy having dibs on the first flowers, buying my annuals when they are budding, but not in bloom.

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It won’t be long though until my newly planted baskets are brimming with color!

*At the end of the season, the plastic and tacks can be removed and thrown away and the twig baskets can be crushed and tossed into the compost bag.

 

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