Whole Wheat Rolls

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(If you want to print this recipe, and not the entire blog, just click on the "Whole Wheat Rolls" title of this post to save yourself some paper!)

We experimented this week with making rolls out of our Honey Whole Wheat Bread with Flaxseed & Millet.  A big thank you to the fabulous members of Sarah's knitting club for the positive feedback on this recipe!  These rolls make perfect summer sandwiches...just slice in half and fill them with the salad of your choice.  For the rolls, we left out the flaxseed and millet the bread recipe calls for, and instead added about 1/3 cup of amaranth. This gives the rolls a nice nutty texture.

Here are the steps:

1.  Make up our bread recipe, as usual.  If you need a refresher on kneading dough, there are lots of pictures here.

2.  When you're ready to bake the dough, instead of forming into loaves just pull off golf-ball-sized pieces of dough and shape them into little rolls.   

3. Bake them on a tray or pizza stone at 350° F for 18-24 minutes.  Just watch them carefully towards the end of the baking time to make sure they don't burn.

4.  Allow to cool on a wire rack, and enjoy!  Makes about 2 dozen rolls.  

A Truly Inedible Recipe...For Skunk Odor Removal, That Is

Last night, our dogs went on their usual trip to the backyard before bed, and evidently took a detour to Nature's Perfume Counter while they were at it.  Now, there are many lovely perfume labels in nature: Infusion d'Honeysuckle.  L'Eau Parfumee Rose.  Calendula Blossom.  Sadly, our dogs went for a rather generous free sample of Eau d'Mouffette.  Ugh.  

Chris consulted The Google while I wrangled two smelly canines into the shower.  Have you ever smelled freshly-sprayed-skunk-smell up close?  It's nauseating.  All you want to do is eradicate it, immediately and forever.

Thanks to some wonderful expert advice (you can click here to read the full article from about.com) we got the smell out, although in retrospect it would have made more sense to conduct the whole procedure outdoors.  The master bathroom still faintly reeks, although the dogs smell good as new.  

So here's the ticket to getting Eau d'Mouffette out:

  1. In a large plastic bucket, mix up to a quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, NEVER a stronger percentage (we had about 1/3 of that left over, but it worked fine) with 1/4 cup baking soda and 2 teaspoons liquid dish detergent.  We sort of splashed in a lot of both...we were in no mood to hunt down the measuring cups with that SMELL in the air!  Run some lukewarm water (we used about a quart) into the bucket, and mix it all up.
  2. Grab your (still dry) dogs, and some rubber gloves (you don't NEED the gloves but your hands will smell like skunk afterwards if you don't put them on.)  Scoop up handfuls of the foamy mixture in your bucket and rub it into your dogs' DRY fur.  AVOID THE EYES. Our dogs got sprayed full in the face, so the smell was concentrated around their little faces and on their chests/front legs.  Just rub the foamy mixture in really well, then let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Just like the shampoo commercials: rinse (with lukewarm water), suds up, repeat.  Do this process as many times as it takes for the smell to go away, or until you run out of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide and patience. For us, it took two rounds of the process to get rid of the stench.  

And you're done!  You know, once you dry the dogs off, wash the towels, spray the entire house down with air freshener (if you forgot and bathed them indoors), sorted out why the skunk was in your backyard in the first place (for us, it seems to have been snacking on the compost pile), and finally scrubbed the skunk smell off yourself in the shower.

Our cats would just like to point out, briefly, that this sort of thing never happens to cats.  A cat would NEVER trap a skunk in a compost bin and then stand there barking madly at it, all the while being doused in foul odors.  Perish the thought.

Was it something I did?  Was it something I said?  Stud, all nice and clean again.

Was it something I did?  Was it something I said?  Stud, all nice and clean again.



The Four Cats Express-Mews

For awhile now we've been meaning to figure out how to get some kind of e-mail subscription up and running for our readers.  While Twitter and Pinterest are fantastic ways to connect, they can also become somewhat of a media overload.  Personally we like getting e-mails from our favorite blogs, periodically updating us on new content, recipes, etc.  Simply Recipes and The Kitchn are two of our favorite cookings sites, and we'd recommend that you try subscribing to them as well!  

A few drawbacks we've noticed with e-mail subscriptions are as follows.  1. You subscribe to a blog or website, only to get bombarded with marketing-type e-mails (as opposed to fun, interesting new content.) 2. You subscribe to a blog or website, only to find it impossible to unsubscribe from said blog or website.  3. You subscribe to a blog or website, only to have the e-mail updates get hopelessly lost in your filled-to-the-bursting inbox. You stop deleting any e-mails out of fear of "missing something important," and have to face down a mountain of new messages (2,800) every time you check your e-mail.

Ah, technology.  We love it, and we hate it.  Like anything else, it's a tool, right? 

We'll start off by sending out The Four Cats Express-Mews once a month, usually around the 15th of the month.  We'll update readers on new content, and throw in a subscriber-only seasonal recipe to try out at home.  You can opt out of receiving our newsletter at any time, one-click and hassle-free!  

The cats look forward to sharing their easygoing, laid-back attitude towards life with our readers.  An article or two about bird-watching may or may not find its way into the monthly publication!  


Pancakes for Breakfast, Anyone?

Something about buttermilk pancakes just hasn't been playing nice, at least not in our kitchen. Our buttermilk pancake recipe hasn't been turning out consistently good results, so we nixed it from our online collection...however, we'd like to recommend a different one!  It's from the Silk website (maker of almond and soy milks), and calls for a delicious mixture of almond milk and honey.  The pancakes we've made from this recipe have turned out consistently golden, puffy and crowd-pleasing, without a whole heck of a lot of effort (or dirty dishes).

To get the recipe you can click here.  We use 100% whole wheat flour when making this recipe, and sweeten with honey.  We've made these pancakes with both unsweetened almond milk and vanilla almond milk, and both times they've turned out just fine.  If you're cooking for a crowd, we'd recommend investing in a decent electric griddle, which will let you make more pancakes at a time and give you a more consistent heat surface to work with.  Otherwise, Lodge makes some wonderful cast iron skillets that will help evenly distribute the heat, even from a cranky electric coil!

 

 

Gardening for Stress Relief

Mint is the easiest herb to grow, just keep it in a pot!  It'll take over your garden otherwise.

Mint is the easiest herb to grow, just keep it in a pot!  It'll take over your garden otherwise.

If we can credit our fast-paced, strenuous modern life with something good (for a change), it would probably be a renewed interest in gardening.  Just about every week, we run across articles and news stories discussing yet another city-dweller who's plowed under the lawn/planted a backyard garden/set up a chicken coop.  Here in the technology-packed 21st century, with all its innovations and breakthroughs, folks are picking up their shovels and gardening gloves again.  Why would anyone do this when machines can take care of our entire food supply chain, from plowing to harvesting to packaging?

We speculate there are a couple of reasons for this renewed interest in gardening.  First and foremost is the economy (da da da dum).  In this jobless recovery, many of us are working longer hours and pinching more pennies than Americans have in decades.  Despite our best efforts, we're also carrying high amounts of household credit debt.  The grocery store is a place many of us attempt to save money, since our grocery budgets aren't fixed (compared to the way our car payments are, for example).  Therein lies the dilemma: cut that grocery budget too much, and we deprive ourselves of the ability to afford fresh produce/high-quality meat/eggs/dairy, and end up stuck with cheaper (though not better) processed foodstuffs.

Here's where gardening comes to the rescue for our stressed-out budgets.  Depending upon the climate in which you live, the quality of your soil (is it contaminated? does is grow stuff?), sunlight, and the availability of water, it's quite possible to grow produce at home for less than it costs to buy it at the grocery store.  We say "quite possible" because you have to go about it in a savvy way, or your home-grown tomatoes might just end up costing more than you'd pay for them.  Potted herbs are a no-brainer: they grow like weeds (especially things like mint, pictured above) and will easily save you some money.  Seeds are cheap (even heirloom seeds, which are gaining popularity thanks to great companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company). However, if you're looking at buying dirt, compost, bed-building materials, etc., your costs can start to climb.  Either way, produce grown at home and freshly-picked the day you plan to eat it is higher in nutrients, more flavorful, and far less likely to be contaminated with pesticides than commercially-produced crops.  

A second reason for the burgeoning interest in home gardening is that it offers a welcome escape from the pace of modern life.  There's something infinitely soothing about digging around in the dirt.  We can reconnect with the rhythms of nature: sunrise, sunset, changes in the weather, changes in the seasons.  Our bodies don't do nearly as well in climate-controlled offices with artificial lighting as they do outside, in our natural habitat.  Out in the garden, life moves at a slower pace.  Spiders spin their intricate webs among the tomato leaves; bees buzz in the squash blossoms; roly-polies tumble in the dirt.  Nothing is frantically pinging for your attention, unless you drag your smartphone into the garden with you.  Which, by the way, we discourage!  Strongly!  The world can wait for awhile as you immerse yourself in your gardening.

A final reason we believe this gardening renaissance is occurring is due to a basic desire to connect, up close and personal, with our food supply.  With recalls of produce happening rather often, not to mention highly-publicized cases of food-poisoning outbreaks, it's no wonder we're all a bit leery about store-bought food.  One also wonders about the working conditions of America's agricultural laborers, many of whom are illegal immigrants or migrant workers (and therefore non-unionized).  At least when we raise our own backyard produce, we know where it comes from and how it was grown/harvested.  We have much more control over what type of seeds we plant (non-GMO, hopefully), not to mention what went on the plants as they were growing.  

The simple act of engaging in gardening is empowering.  YOU are in charge: you get to decide what to grow, how to grow it, and what to do with your gardening bounty.  It's also deeply nurturing on a emotional and spiritual level, as you come into daily contact with the natural world of birds and bees and spiders and plants.  Trade your smartphone in for a shovel and get started today!