Our Favorite 100% Whole Wheat Bread (Glenda’s Secret Recipe!)

Glenda Lehman Ervin, our vice-president of marketing, swears by this ‘family secret” bread recipe.

“My mother baked bread for us each week. How many times I came home to bread still rising in the dough pan, lightly covered with a damp cloth. Better yet, the smell of freshly baked bread, wafting through the kitchen.”

“I don’t have time to bake bread each week,” she says, “but I want my daughter to have those memories.  So I use this recipe and we bake together, on lazy Sunday afternoons or cold winter evenings. Because if I don’t teach her how to bake bread, how will she teach her daughter? The last time we baked bread, the entire loaf was gone by bedtime!”

Our pure Clover Honey is processed just a few miles from our store in Ohio. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

Our pure Clover Honey is processed just a few miles from our store in Ohio. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

Favorite 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 4 loaves.

2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons yeast
2 eggs, beaten
7 to 8 cups whole wheat flour, warmed in the oven

In a large mixing bowl, pour boiling water over powdered milk, butter, salt and honey. After cooled, add dry yeast and beaten eggs. Beat mixture with 3 cups flour. Stir in 2 1/2 cups additional flour. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. Add flour sparingly as needed to keep dough from sticking. Cover and let rest 20 minutes. Punch down and shape into four loaves. Let rise until doubled. Place doubled loaves into greased bread pans. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes.

Editor’s Note: This recipe was originally published in October 2013.

Craft An Upcycled Christmas in 2015

I loved how the jar lid tags came out! Underneath, you can see my festive gift bag fabric.

I loved how the jar lid tags came out! Underneath, you can see my festive gift bag fabric.

It’s no secret that our landfills are overflowing. I take every opportunity to reduce the amount of waste I produce by reusing and repurposing whatever I can. Over the holidays I get to exercise my creative muscle to make beautiful wrappings and tags from what would otherwise be junk into decorative items that can be reused year after year.

Canning Jar Lids:

One thing I have an abundance of canning jar lids. They can only be used once, no matter how perfect they look. This year I also had a huge supply of jar labels.

Put the two together with some spray paint and you have lovely gift tags. These were so much fun to make; the process became a family affair akin to making gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies.

I gathered several dozen jar lids and gave them a good wash then let them dry completely. I had a lot of cans of spray paint left over from other projects. I found the color really didn’t matter. Although red and green are festive, the black chalkboard paint looked great too. It can be written on to which is a plus but I had trouble making the letters small enough with the large chalk I had on hand. I preferred the look of the labels. I considered poking holes in the tops so I could string ribbon or raffia through them but decided to go with some rolled tape I had that was losing its stickiness.

Make Gift Bags
I scored a bolt of red and white striped fabric at a tag sale so I now have a collection of cute gift bags that look sweet with my upcycled tags. They were easy to sew. (Editor’s Note: Pick up lots of great ideas on making your own gift bags via this Pinterest page!)

This week, I will pack up the leftover bags and the tags. Like Christmas snow, they’ll make an appearance at Christmas 2015, bringing some magic and happy memories to this special season.

Let’s Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling!

Authentic Solid Brass Sleigh Bells

Handmade, with a full, rich tone, these brass bells on a leather harness strap are available from Lehman’s in Kidron and at Lehmans.com.

I always wanted to have a horse and cart. The idea quietly thrilled me. Whenever I would catch a driver and his trusty mare in a movie or documentary part of me felt a tiny ache. It seemed like the perfect pace to take part in the world. Slower than a car, faster and gentler than a country stroll, and unlike seeing the world on horseback you could bring along a few friends and pack a picnic lunch as well. What could be a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in pleasant (or even snowy) weather? Only two problems with this dream. First, I didn’t own a horse or cart. And secondly, I had no idea how to drive a horse and cart. This does not a teamster make… 

 
So I let this dream sit on the shelf in a tiny box I knew I couldn’t open. Horses and carts were for movie extras and county parades, not for everyday people. I had a station wagon that smelled like wet dogs and the idea of someday parking a horse cart next to it in the driveway seemed as realistic as a space shuttle. 

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Lehman’s Hacks: Christmas Canning Jar Craft!

Beeswax tealights, Ball® canning jars

Lit with tealights, the jars really sparkle! Find tealights and jars at Lehmans.com.

The first thing we did was look at Pinterest.

In retrospect, that may have been a mistake.

After all, we’re writers and editors here at Country Life, not semi-professional crafters.But we had a great time making our “disco ball jars” as writer Sarah christened the project, and we hope you will too.

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From College Kitchen to Our Dinner Table

French Press Coffee Maker

Lehman’s French Press Coffee Maker is great gift for your favorite student. It’s easy to use and easy to clean.

Ah, the college years. Did we even realize how good we had it? New friends, exciting (or not) courses, free time, parental units probably far away, little responsibility – at least compared to full adulthood/parenthood. College was where I learned to love coffee, where I found out I had a gift for making my roommates laugh…and also where I learned to cook!

After two years in the dorms, subsisting on cafeteria food (which, I must admit, was actually pretty good) and Ramen noodles cooked in hand-me-down hotpots, my girlfriends and I signed the lease on a townhouse close to campus, where we would live until graduation. It had a full kitchen, so one of the first routines we set up after we all moved in was the dinner schedule.

Breakfasts and lunches, we decided, were free-for-alls, but dinners would be sacred, in a way. We all came from good solid families where sitting down for nightly meals was the norm, and I’m sure we all (despite our burgeoning independence) longed for some of that stable “homey” feeling. So we each picked a night, and began to cook for each other.

Like most students, we were all living on a shoestring budget (I got paid $2 per typed page of notes I took for a Psych 101 class – imagine that!) so our meals were simple, hearty and shall we say, sometimes quite creative. And sure, during finals week we threw the cooking schedule out the window and ordered in pizza. But interestingly, some of the same recipes we each came to be known for, I use to this day. In fact, the following three are still some of my “go-to’s,” – 14 years, one husband, two jobs and three children later. Enjoy – and send some good thoughts to your college roomies as you cook them. I know I do! Continue reading

Fall’s Deep Cleaning Solution

Black Bucket

Inside or out, The Black Bucket does the hard work! At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Every season, we deep clean at our house. It’s mainly because I have allergies, and because we share our space with four cats. (Yes. It gets interesting.) One of the best cleaning “solutions” I use is one that my grandmother and my mother taught me: a solution of water, vinegar, and baking soda. It’s easy to make, and I put together enough for a day’s work–a couple of gallons all together. It doesn’t really “keep”, so make it every time you need it.

Generally, I make it in a plastic bucket. Granny always said not to use a metal bowl, because it might discolor both the paste and what you’re hoping to clean. Only mix this in plastic or non-reactive glass or ceramic.

It works well on hard plastics like porch furniture, outdoor toys, and pool toys too. We used it on vinyl screens too. Don’t use it on metal screens–the vinegar can promote rust! I speak from personal experience here…and replacing a few metal screens in my time. Continue reading

Tomatoes: Keeping Beyond Canning

The quality you want from Lodge, in a great preseasoned steel skillet! In stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

The quality you want from Lodge, in a great preseasoned steel skillet! In stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Try these ideas

Since tomatoes are the number one most popular vegetable for the home gardener, most of us find ourselves with a glut of them before the season is over. Canning takes care of a lot, but sometimes we can’t even give them away fast enough once they get into production mode. When that happens, it’s time to think seriously about what to do with the excess.   There’s always the compost pile, but who wants to waste a good tomato?

Frozen Green Tomatoes for Frying

If you like fried green tomatoes, it’s a simple fix to freeze them for later. Slice them uniformly just as if you were going to fry them, then dip them in whatever mixture you like. Lay them out on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and freeze until they’re firm. You can then put them in freezer bags or containers and remove them individually when it’s time to cook them. Don’t let the tomato slices thaw before frying, but place them quickly into a hot, oiled skillet. They will taste as fresh as if you just pulled them off the vine – a real treat on a snowy winter day!

Making tomato sauce with Roma

Roma Food Mill in action at Galen Lehman’s place. Get your own at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Frozen Tomato Sauce  If you have a lot of tomatoes and want to can tomato sauce or make ketchup, but can’t stand the thought of adding even more heat to an already hot summer’s day, puree your tomatoes and get them ready to make sauce, then freeze the puree until the warmth from the stove will be welcome!   When you’re ready to can, thaw the sauce and cook it down until it’s ready and that’s all there is to it. If you don’t want to can it, cook it down first and freeze it in one or two cup portions.

Cookie Sheet

Neutrally non-stick, our recycled steel cookie sheets works hard for you in the kitchen! At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, and at Lehmans.com.

Freeze Whole Tomatoes  But don’t freeze them in a lump that you have to hammer apart when you only want one or two. Instead, remove the skins (or not, if you don’t mind them), core and place on a wax paper or parchment paper covered cookie sheet in the freezer until they’re solidly frozen. Remove them quickly and put in freezer containers or bags, then you can simply use as many or as few as you need.   Since tomatoes thaw and then reheat quickly, just plop them into your stew or soup or leave in a dish long enough to thaw for other purposes.

5 racks, food dehydrator

Electric food deyhydrator works for fruit/veggie leathers too. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

Still have more? Sun dried tomatoes are a specialty, but you can make them easily. They are exactly what they sound like: Dried in the sun. A dehydrator is excellent for this, but you don’t even need that. A flat surface that can be protected from insects–a cloth will do it.

Slice the tomatoes thinly and uniformly, place them where they won’t touch each other and leave in the sun, covered by a cloth until they are leathery to crisp. (Keep your cloth in place with clothes pegs or binder clips!) Store tomatoes in a closed container, and keep in a cool, dry place. Check them now and then as they tend to absorb moisture. If they do, you can redry them in the sun, or dry them out again in the oven. Use a very low temperature, leave the door open and watch them so they don’t burn.

You can even dry tomato “leather” to use as sauce in cooked dishes. Make a puree of the tomatoes and cook it down as much as you can to speed the drying process, then spread it on a leather dehydrator sheet. This is a solid sheet, usually of plastic that won’t let the liquid seep through. Use a plastic sheet over a tray in the sun if you need to, but it will take longer than a dehydrator or sun-drying sliced tomatoes.

When the leather is finished, you can store it in sheets, break it up or pulverize it in the blender for a tomato bouillon of sorts. Be aware that if you pulverize it, it will turn hard after awhile. A little cornstarch mixed in well before storing will prevent that.   Don’t waste even one of those precious globes that you worked so hard to grow!

 

Who Needs A Weed-Eater? Scything Caesar Creek 1

 

The snath is the wooden handle to which the scythe blade is affixed. Both are available at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio or at Lehmans.com.

The snath is the wooden handle to which the scythe blade is affixed. Both are available at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio or at Lehmans.com.

“The old man, holding himself erect, moved in front, with his feet turned out, taking long, regular strides, and with a precise and regular action which seemed to cost him no more effort than swinging one’s arms in walking, as though it were in play, he laid down the high, even row of grass. It was as though it were not he but the sharp scythe of itself swishing through the juicy grass.”

                                                   — from Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

If you have ever been curious about scything and wondered if it might be for you, consider treating yourself to reading Anna Karenina, chapters 4 and 5. The description of hay-making with scythes, the sounds and smells and feel of it, is wonderful. For those of us who enjoy closeness with nature and the feel of working outdoors, it is enchanting

That’s what did it for me. I purchased a snath handle and two blades from Lehman’s and made hand-haying my goal.

Lesson #1: It takes a bit more planning than that to start a hayfield.
Not to worry. I’m working out a plan for the hay. But a few weeks ago I had a more immediate need.

Caesar Creek runs through a beautiful farm property adjacent to mine, on which I have permission to ride my horses around the crop fields. The part where I have been riding is a large field, over 100 acres, with the creek making up almost half of its boundary.

View toward the boundary creek.

View toward the boundary creek.

It was a boundary to me, anyway, because it was impenetrable. High, steep banks made most approaches impossible on horseback, and the wooded vegetation on both sides was deep, dark, and full of nettles — painful to both horse and rider.

Then one day, on a long ride down a local country road, I discovered the actual back side of this property. It was so much bigger than I realized!  And the most beautiful and tranquil parts of it were on the other side of the creek, a maze of rolling, picturesque crop fields linked by decades-old paths through wooded glens.

I just had to find a way to cross the creek.

This is just a small portion of the huge nettle patch that I had to get through.

This is just a small portion of the huge nettle patch that I had to get through.

Lesson #2: Nettles cannot be bargained with.
These weren’t just nettles. They were uber-nettles — tall, dense plant-warriors, ready to sting at the slightest disturbance.

But then I realized they had taken over so completely that little else grew in the woods surrounding the creek – a uniform population, with tender, juicy stalks that wouldn’t bother my scythe one bit.

“I came; I saw; I scythed.”   — A. A. Jones

I studied an aerial map to figure out where I should start making my path to the creek.

Then I had to decide how to get there with my nettle-neutralizing gear and enough energy left to do the job. The starting place was at least a mile from my house through fields — too far to walk and still be a threat to the nettle population when I got there. The nearest road would put me within 200 yards, but there was a bog in between — also no good. I decided packing everything in on horseback was the best way to go.

Scythe BladeI chose the shorter of my two scythe blades, designed more for weeds than hay.

The snath handle was the biggest transportation challenge.

My solution was to attach a banjo strap and sling it over my shoulder.

One banjo strap, and my snath is ready to go!

One banjo strap, and my snath is ready to go!

Everything else fit in my cantle bag on the saddle, even the carefully-wrapped scythe blade. I was all set!

Lastly, I used my favorite knot from my youthful days as a wrangler to secure a lead rope safely around my horse’s neck. This would make tying up quick and easy once we were on the trail.

With my sensible 17-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse mare loaded and ready to go, we headed out to the site.

Safe from flies, and with green to graze, my Tennessee Walker waits for me to conquer the nettles.

Safe from flies, and with green to graze, Robin, my Tennessee Walker waits for me to conquer the nettles.

My first order of business was to knock down enough nettles to give my horse a comfortable place to stand under a shade tree, at the edge of the woods. Then I removed her bridle, attached her fly mask, loosened the saddle, and asked for her patience.

Minutes later the scything began in earnest, and I didn’t stop for two hours. I didn’t mean to go that long without a break, but I found myself hooked by the same almost Zen quality that comes with playing golf.

Once I got my technique down, nettles dropped right and left.

Once I got my technique down, nettles dropped right and left.

For me that means initial frustration, followed by working at it too hard, followed by more frustration, until I am about to give it up for good, then I finally relax and … Thwack!  The golf ball sails, and I can’t wait to do it again.

I kept trying to remember all I had read about proper scything technique, but it was difficult to apply in the moment. When I would notice myself struggling, I realized I was making choppy strokes, all arms, and the cutting was difficult. So I would take a breath, and then swing smoothly with my body, letting the blade do the work. And voila! The nettles cut like soft butter.

Oh yes, I kept going.

After two hours I had made it deep into the woods, well out of sight of my horse who grew nervous and whinnied for me. That’s what reminded me to take a break. After checking in with the The Boss (her name is Robin) and rehydrating, I went back in to make a final push to the creek, which was now almost visible. I went straight for the sound of water, ready for this job to be over.

A perfect bank for crossing Ceasar Creek!

This looks like a great spot to cross, but the bank is way too steep!

After another 20 minutes of work, I realized I was about eight feet too high. I had come out on one of the creek’s many steep, high banks. I retraced my path and continued cutting parallel to the creek another 50 feet or so until the contour looked more promising, and tried again. This time I came out at a small step-down bank opening onto a wide sand bar — perfect!

I went back for my horse, and we tried out the new path. A few tree limbs needed to be cut, but it was passable.

Once we were in the creek, I took a few minutes to survey the other side — only steep, high banks in sight.

Now aware of how tired I was, I would leave it for another day to find an exit from the creek on the other side.

Look for the second installment of Scything Caesar Creek on Wednesday, September 3.

The Wheels On The Bus…

Ecobags lunch sack at Lehmans.com.

A blank, recycled canvas! Ecobags Lunch Sacks are fun to decorate, and are washable, great for allergic kids. At Lehmans.com or Lehmans in Kidron, Ohio.

Where did time go? My  baby girl is suddenly five years old and getting ready for her first day of kindergarten. Wasn’t it just yesterday I held her in my arms and sang the song with her- soon she will be stepping on the bus.

I had hoped that she could be a carefree lunch eater and able to participate in every pizza party- but that is not her reality. Around age one she was diagnosed with milk, egg, wheat and sunflower food allergies. While we were hoping that she would outgrow them by now, she still has reactions to all.

So along with the normal supplies there will be an Epi-pen and care plan for the school follow. I hope that she will not carry all my fears and worries, but that she can find a safe balance of being cautious and being normal. Continue reading

Gluten-Free Peach Cake Cooks Up in Cast Iron

Peach Upside Down Cake in Cast Iron Pan

This is my gluten-free peach cake recipe. I’ve changed many of the ingredients from the original recipe to suit me! For instance, I don’t use butter, I use honey and yogurt, and I bake it off in a cast iron skillet. I think my version is healthier, and (after trying the original) tastier! Continue reading