Dinner with Friends

Yesterday evening we had dinner with friends.

Menu – Salad; White Bean and Whole Grain pasta soup from the MIND Diet (p. 208); homemade honey wheat bread; pumpkin bread for dessert

These days I get salad in a bag and cherry tomatoes in a package.  Using two varieties from Del Monte – fresh spring mix and garden mix, I put that together with a fresh cucumber and some sliced onion arranged nicely on top with a sprinkle of Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese.

The MIND Diet cookbook has some very good recipes.  I usually do not try new things out on guests but this recipe I had been wanting to try for sometime.  As with all soup recipes it makes more than Cheryl and I could eat at one or two meals so I selected our dinner guests as guinea pigs.  I wrote their comments in the cookbook pages above along with my modifications.

I do not have vegetable broth hanging out in my pantry.  I usually use chicken or beef broth alone or in combination in various soups and stews.  I do not know what rice consistency means so I took that to mean little pieces.  I chopped it into very small pieces with my favorite knife.

I decided that this soup would go well with my own version of honey wheat bread.  This bread I have made many times since I started baking in the late 1980’s.  This is the general ingredient list that I have settled on over time:

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons of salt (I use sea salt)
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons of dry yeast (I use yeast in a jar.)
  • enough bread flour to turn it into dough — typically 4 – 5 cups

Making bread for me is meditation.  It matters little what is going on around me, I am focused on the bread.  If anyone reading this has celiac disease, my heart goes out to you.  I my mind there is nothing better than fresh bread, slightly warm, from the oven.  And for me personally there is no more relaxing activity than making and baking bread.

I use a wonderful older model of KitchenAid mixer that I have had since 1980-something. It has a big stainless steel bowl and one cup of the whole wheat flour, the yeast and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water goes in the bowl first and is mixed.  I let this rest and the yeast grow for about fifteen to twenty minutes.  Bring a book.  You will have time to get into the story.  I put the butter, salt and the honey together with the rest of the water into the microwave for a bit to soften the butter.  Do not let it get too hot (less than 120F).

After it looks fluffy in the bowl I used a paddle mixer to mix the rest until the paddle no longer works.  I switch to a dough hook for the last mix.  Dump in the rest of the whole wheat flour and the water-honey-butter-salt solution into the bowl with the mixer running on low.  Add the white flour a cup or so at a time until the paddle is substituted for the dough hook.  The dough will hang onto the hook and wipe the inside of the bowl clean.  Stop adding flour and let the mixer run on two (2) for five more minutes.

Dump the dough out into a greased bowl. (I use lard but butter or Crisco will work.)  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled. (I use my oven with the light on.)  This takes about an hour.  Afterward punch the dough down and turn it over in the bowl.  Recover it and let it rise again.  It will be faster this time about 20 – 30 minutes.  After the second rise, dump it out onto the counter and split in two loaves.  Put each into a greased bread pan (5×9 inch) and let rise again for ten minutes or so. 

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Bake the loaves 15 minutes at 375 and then change the temperature to 350F.  Let bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until you like the color.  I usually take the loaves out of the pans in the oven and let bake without a pan for the last five minutes or so.  Let the loaves cool for about an hour before cutting.  Heaven.

From the Del Monte can

I have noticed that over time pumpkin is put into a 15.5 ounce can.  No matter the recipe still works.  She follows this recipe exactly. I had to make a special trip to the store for allspice. When I make pumpkin pie I do not use pumpkin pie spice. I used a combination of cinnamon, cloves and ginger I found in another cookbook, so, I did not know we were out.

Cheryl always makes a buttercream frosting for this before serving.  And since we can we put whipped cream on top. Yum.

Our friends came over because Bill was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  It got me thinking about our situation and how lonely it felt at first when we started down this road.  We met Bill and his wife at an informational lecture at Parkinson Community Fitness. I decided to take it upon myself to intrude upon Bill’s life and talk about it.  I invited him and his wife to dinner.

It was a great time… but the conversation never drifted far from PD.

Carpe Diem.

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