Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Norwegian Flat Bread (flatbrød)

Everyone loves lefse, but I think fewer Americans have experienced the dry "flatbrød" I grew up enjoying with my family.

While lefse is like a soft, potato based tortilla, flatbread is a thin, crisp cracker, intended for long storage and delicious with tiny bit of butter.

Making it has always been a big social experience as well, and I had depended on my parents to organize the event, usually just before Christmas. Many years have passed since our last flatbread party, and I realized it was up to me to start the tradition anew.

I invited my sister-in-law, who isn't a speck Norwegian but can cook just about anything. You need people like that on your team when you are re-building something only vaguely remembered! I had to promise we'd make lefse as well (which we did).

I happened to have the special equipment favored for the task:
  • a large flat lefse grill, 
  • a giant lefse rolling pin (the checkered surface gives you the needed pull on the dough), 
  • a clean Bethany board to make rolling easier, and 
  • plenty of flat, thin wooden paddles for lifting & transferring the rolled dough.
  • an oven set to warm, with a tray for catching crumbs
  • The only important piece missing was a large soft brush for dusting excess flour off the dough & griddle. I substituted a clean, unused paint brush, but had to be very careful not to let it touch the 500 degree griddle (would melt instantly!)
 If you don't have these:
  • If you don't have access to a lefse grill, you could experiment with a very hot non-stick skillet or other flat grilling surface. Lefse grills go up to 500 degrees - on a skillet the cooking times may be a little longer. Here's another blogger's advice.
  • A standard rolling pin may work also, but if you can borrow something with more clout you'll be happier!
  • Any clean surface you would use for rolling a pie crust would work also, just keep it well floured
  • You could come up with something to replace the wooden sticks. I saw one lefse blogger who made their own by sanding down smooth lath pieces or paint stirring sticks. Basically you want a stick that is long (about 18-24"), thin, smooth & strong and has ROUNDED edges. 
My folks experimented for YEARS with the recipe. Here is the only one I wrote down, with a note about what I actually did:

Anderson's Flatbrød

6 C white flour
3 C whole wheat flour
2 C cornmeal (I ended up using about a half cup cornmeal and 1 & 1/2 Cups Masa flour)
heaping Tb Salt
5 C water
1 stick butter, softened

We mixed all the dry ingredients, cut the butter into the flours, and then gradually added the water. When it was pretty well combined, we turned the stiff dough onto a board and kneaded it just enough to make sure it was well mixed.
Then we divided it into smaller portions, and from those into balls of dough.

My family used to make massive flatbrød that
filled the grills from side to side! My sister-in-law made them smaller, but this made them much easier to work with and store.

The cloth covered Bethany board really makes rolling much easier than a plain wooden board, but you still need to keep it well floured.

We like our flatbread as thin as possible - about the width of a piece of cardstock! You can experiment with yours. Thick flatbread can be hard to eat.

Rolling tip: work the ball into a flat round with your hands, and keeping it floured, work the roller from the middle out, working all the way around the dough (don't roll all the way across from side to side). As it expands, you can leave the middle alone and focus on the edges. You want the dough to be as even as possible. Let the heavy roller do the work. If you lean onto the dough too much you'll tear it or get it stuck to the board or pin.

My sister-in-law didn't care if it was perfectly round, and I decided that was just fine. It all tastes the same!

Once it's rolled out, slide the stick under the middle & gently lift off the board. Tap it to remove excess flour, and if you are ahead of the baker, it's good to have a place to store them (like those we have wedged in the laundry hamper!)

 To put on the grill, lay half the dough on the dry grill, (no grease or oil is used) and unfold the rest by flipping the stick over until it's all flat on the grill. Use the brush to gently flick off excess flour and re-position the dough if need be.

In a few minutes (grills vary) the first side will be done. Check by lifting with the stick to see if small brown freckles are appearing. Use the stick to flip it over, and do the other side.

When both sides have nice brown spots like this, you are ready to move it to the oven, where it will need to be for several hours to finish drying. (It will probably be a little chewy yet if you try it now, even though it should seem very dry & stiff.)

brushing flour off the dough. You can simply blow flour off the grill.

Clean any flour left on the grill by swiping it quickly with a cotton cloth. We set our grill up outside so the house doesn't get full of flour.

When it was finally completely dry, we broke the pieces in half (or more) to put in gallon size ziplock bags. My husband was sure we'd made enough to last through Christmas, but we didn't even make it to Thanksgiving. Oh well! Gotta have another party I guess!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Leaf Collage Fabric Table Runners

Before tackling this project, please verify that the leaves you are working with are not toxic. Many popular garden plants and shrubs are highly poisonous, and you do not want to get the leaf sap on your skin.

Some to avoid:
Euphorbia, also known as Spurge, is a common nursery plant and poisonous. Getting the sap on your hands may produce blisters, but getting it in your eyes may produce blindness.

Angel's Trumpet is highly toxic - I will not grow this in my garden. Oleander is another extremely toxic plant, and the smoke from burning the wood is deadly.

Cherry, peach, plum, apricot and almond leaves are reportedly poisonous, as are Caladium, Elderberry, Horse Chestnut, Golden Chain (Laburnum), Mountain Laurel, Oak, Rhododendron & Azalea, and Red Leaf Maple.

Here are a couple resources for checking this out:

Generally safe -- but please verify on your own -- are Japanese Maple, Big Leaf Maple & Vine Maples (West Coast natives)  and Sweet Gum.
Place your fabric on a sturdy and disposable piece of lumber. It will get stained from the leaves. Using Non-Toxic leaves, put the top side down on your fabric and pound with a hammer. It is very tedious, and ear protection is a good idea. Watch your fingers! 

Here is a close up of the runner I made years ago on a light brown fabric, still my favorite!
Step 2, I simply used a zigzag stitch and trimmed with scissors. A satin stitch would have been very nice also.
Step 3, I took it outside & sprayed it with Scotch Guard & hung it to dry. The colors bled a little from this, but not too much. I wanted to create an irregular shape, like a "leaf puddle". 
This did not turn out quite like I wanted --lace helped.

This is for my "Banquette" table.
And the brown runner for the dining table.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Winter Container Arrangements from your Garden

The tender annuals are nearly done for the year. Time to raid the garden and woods for materials to fill the flower pots until spring.

Here's today's project.

1. An antique woodstove sits by my front door. The begonias gone, I started by arranging various greens (evergreens and Bay Laurel) and some hydrangeas.
The hydrangeas won't last too long. I will probably replace them by Christmas. 

 Silver Nettle grows out of the pitcher.

 2. The Heuchera coming out the top of the stove is getting leggy. I filled in with sprigs of Santolina -- jammed into the pot, they may even take root!

3.  Cottoneaster added to the pot to partially cover the rusty stovepipe. I discovered the stems were easy to bend into shape.

 4. Sword Ferns for a little drama. Almost done.

 5. (below) A few rose hips was just what it needed.

I put a plastic salad container in a wooden box to hold water for the next arrangement. Evergreens will last a long time in the cool temperatures even without water.

Step one, something big to help hold things together, then add some Santolina & Russian Sage...

Weeping spruce and red twigs, Variegated evergreen broadleaf.
This might take root also!

Finally, Cedar Berries and some Bay Laurel.
 Not bad for free.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Queen Anne's Lace Pressed Flowers in a Frame

The Queen Anne's Lace Room.
In an earlier post, I explained how I was inspired by Queen Anne's Lace and September colors when re-decorating my oldest daughter's old bedroom.

Queen Anne's Lace happens to be one of her favorite flowers; fortunately they are prolific here on the farm. They will help us fill out her wedding bouquet next summer!

So we gathered an armload of blooms for this project, and on the way back to the house, added some Russian Sage to the mix.
No fancy flower press in sight, I pressed these the same way my Grandmother did: between sheets of wax paper slipped between the pages of several large books. I stacked these on top of each other and stacked on about 20 pounds of weights for good measure.

About a week later they were finely pressed and ready to use.

I drew inspiration from an online "how to". Here's a link

I chose a background paper that would be a good contrast to the white of the flowers, but a more neutral background would have worked also. I played with composition, trying out many ideas. The flowers were not as fragile as I expected, but a pair of tweezers makes handling them much easier.

You can often bend the the stems very gently to get things where you want them to go. I also decided that if there were too many leaves in one place, I would just pinch them off. They are easy to glue back later if you change your mind.

I used Elmer's glue when it was time to fix the design. The final picture is not exactly the design I chose, as a few flowers landed slightly off the intended spot, and once on the paper it is difficult to move them. I just worked around it. This was part of the fun.
The frame was a Goodwill find. It had been water damaged, so it was a challenge, but affordable.
I don't expect this to last for decades. Dried flowers tend to turn brown over time, and I am not going to wait for it to be an eyesore before replacing it with a new creation. In the meantime, I have hung it far from the window where it will be protected from direct sunlight.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Music for Welcoming the Rain

After a record-setting dry summer, the rains have finally returned to Oregon.

The rhythm of the rain seems to call for a certain kind of soundtrack. Subdued, contented, but not too sleepy.

Here is a playlist of instrumental music that I need to hear when the roof beats and the outside world begins its wintery meditation.
Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet

1)  Upscale Jazz Cello
     The whole album is an experience.
     My favorite track: Morning Song
     Mood lifting energy. Inspiring performances.

Bukkene Bruse:The Stone Chair  

2) Deep Magic: Norwegian Hardanger Fiddle:  
Numedalshalling (Halling From Numedal)
Link above takes you to recording online, link on left goes to Amazon)
    Ear stretching harmonies, and a wonderful example of the voice used as an instrument, often heard in this genre. 

3) Soothing Harp & Flute:  
Month of January /When the Snow and Frost Are All Over
    Serene, but with a subtle chill in the air. (one of my own recordings)

     Anna Holbling: 
Two Violins and One Guitar, Vol. 2

4) Classical Chamber Music  
Handel: Sonata in C minor: III. Andante
    A gently rhythmic major key theme, cadencing at the end to a minor key (to transition to the next movement), ending wonderfully unresolved.

5) Sublime Guitar:
Hypnotic & sensual.

Piano: So Much Music!!!
    This may be the perfect sound for a good drizzly day.

6) Solo Romantic (classical genre, romantic period)

Consolation No. 3

Here is a link to a  live performance so beautiful, I want to live in this moment. 

 7) Solo Classical -- nearly any Mozart Piano Sonata. Here is an elegant performance.

Piano Sonata No.16 in C K.545 "Sonata facile" - 2. Andante

Michael Allen HarrisonMatter of Time

8) New Age Piano ensemble


9) New Age Piano ensemble


Friday, October 5, 2012

Pear & Whole Wheat Bread for Bread Machine

This bread is lightly sweet and very moist. Now that the pear trees are finished, I am going to try it with grated apples.

I started with the recipe for "Fluffy Pear Bread" on Sparkpeople, and made some modifications.
The loaf I made tonight was almost too large for the machine!

Pear & Whole Wheat Bread for Bread Machine

1.5 cups finely chopped pears
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tb. butter, (I separate into smaller slices)
2Tb. brown sugar, packed and heaped a bit (maybe a tsp. more?)
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg ( or less, according to taste & freshness of your nutmeg)
1 cup whole wheat flour (I used a high quality locally milled brand)
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour (I use unbleached)
2 3/8 tsp yeast

Put everything in the machine in the order listed, select "sweet" setting. I chose the lighter crust.

I also help the machine at some point in the initial mixing if some of the flour does not get mixed in.

When the machine beeps to signal the opportunity to add extra ingredients, I check the dough for texture. The first few times I made this, the dough seemed sticky, so I have added a little flour to the original recipe's ingredients. Today it seemed a little dry, so I added a teaspoon of water.
The pears were very soft, almost overripe. If they had been firm I would have cut them much finer.

I have children's liquid medicine dispensers in my kitchen for things like yeast, salt and vanilla. This looks like "just a smidge" over 2.25 tsp of yeast to me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sweet Strawberry Omelet

Oregon Strawberries are at their peak.

This recipe was submitted to the Immanuel Lutheran Church Cookbook in 1984 and it's delightful, and fairly healthy. The eggs take on an airy lightness and custard-like quality. It won't take the place of shortcake in my heart, but it's better for me. I have made a few modifications -- which I will note, and have added to the directions based on my experience.

If you make this, or have something similar and can add to the directions, I would love to hear from you!

Sweet Strawberry Omelet

You need a 10" oven proof skillet. Turns out, my skillet is only 9.5" (you measure across the top), but I am glad it was not too shallow, as you can see by the photos.

4 eggs, separated, each in mixing bowls (larger one for the egg whites)
2 tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 C. plain yogurt (we like Nancy's)
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. butter

about 1/3 C. plain yogurt -- depending on how much you would like to use
preferred sweetener (to taste) I used a little honey - (never give honey to infants!)
(cookbook called for 1/4 c. yogurt and 1/4 c.frozen whipped topping -- which I chose not to use, plus a little milk & sugar)

2 C. washed and sliced fresh strawberries
nutmeg (optional)

It filled the pan completely!
  • Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Beat egg whites till frothy. Add 2 tbsp. water and 1/4 tsp. salt. Beat to stiff peaks.
  • Beat egg yolks till thick and lemon-colored; beat in 1/4 C yogurt and 2 tbsp. sugar.
  • Fold yolks into whites. (I allowed some lumpiness)
  • Melt butter in 10 inch ovenproof skillet; heat until a drop of water sizzles.
    (I had it at "9-10" on my stove top -- but this was too hot, as it scorched a little -  make sure the butter covers the pan before adding the eggs)
  • Pour in eggs; spread to edges.
  • REDUCE HEAT (I took it down to "3"; the directions did not specify a temperature)
  • After baking in the oven
  • Cook 8 minutes.
  • Finish cooking in oven at 325 till knife comes out clean, 10-12 minutes (test in middle) 
  • Loosen omelet and slide onto a warm platter.

  • Combine yogurt with preferred sweetener, and spoon lightly over the top.
  • Top with sliced strawberries.
  • I chose to add a dusting of nutmeg to my own serving.
Husband reaction: It's not guy food.
Foodie Daughter: I like it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Arrowhead Shadow Box

Obsidian Arrowhead
Over 100 years ago, my grandmother found these arrowheads and trading beads while wandering the fields near Enterprise, Oregon. She passed along this childhood treasure to my mother, who passed them along to me.

They lived in an old tin, wrapped in cloth and tucked away at the back of a desk drawer, only to be re-discovered on those occasional desk cleanings.

It seemed a shame not to enjoy & share their beauty more often. An inexpensive piece of suede-like fabric, heavy thread (mine was like a tapestry yarn) and a shadow box solved the problem.

I asked one of my artsy daughters to put it all together. She used a tapestry needle and yarn to fix the arrowheads to the cloth. Now my grandmother's collection is enjoyed daily by the family and all who come to visit.

I would be interested to learn more about these artifacts. I wonder, for example, if the one on the top right is a drilling tool or an arrowhead?

How do you display your favorite heirloom collections? I'd love to hear from you!

Eastern Oregon Arrowhead Collection Shadow Box