Sunday, April 11, 2021

Hot Cross Buns for our Reunited Easter!


 We had a wonderful Easter!  Since all the adults were vaccinated we could reunite and gather at my house for dinner again this year. What a great feeling! All the grandchildren had a wonderful time together.

 I made Hot Cross Buns for the first time as part of our dessert buffet and was very pleased with how they came out.  Baking at high elevation, especially yeast bread, can sometimes be a challenge as I live over 6,000 feet, so I wasn't sure if they would be as light and fluffy as I hoped. Happily, they were, and they had enough spices and preserved fruit bits in them to be very flavorful but not overly sweet. If you'd like to read the history of Hot Cross Buns and why they are often eaten during the Easter season click here.  The buns are good to enjoy year-round, not just at Easter.  I know I'll be making them often! 


Hot Cross Buns


Ingredients:

Buns:

3 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast (9 grams) 
1/2 cup (110g) sugar 
1 1/2 cups (375ml) milk, warm, full fat, or low fat 
4 1/4 cups (640g) bread flour (or plain/all-purpose) 
2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (210g) raisins
1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
Zest from 1- 2 oranges
3.5 tbsp (50g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg at room temperature

Glaze:

1 tbsp apricot jam 
2 tsp water

Sugar Crosses:  

One cup powdered sugar, 3 tbsp. milk, and a drop of vanilla flavoring

Instructions:

Place flour, yeast, sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Briefly mix with a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
Add butter, milk, egg, raisins, finely chopped apricots, and orange zest.

Stand mixer: Mix until a smooth elastic dough forms - 5 minutes on Speed 2 of a stand mixer. After 1 minute, add an extra 1/4 cup flour if required, just enough so the dough comes away from the side of the bowl when mixing and doesn't stick terribly to your fingers. 

Hand kneading: Alternatively, dust a work surface with flour and knead by hand for 10 minutes.
The dough is kneaded enough when it's smooth and does not break when stretched.

Dough Rise #1:

Leave the dough in the bowl, cover with cling wrap, and place in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in size. This will take anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on how warm it is.

Line a 9 x 13" tray with baking paper with overhang.
Remove cling wrap and punch dough to deflate.
Dust work surface with flour, place dough on the work surface, shape into a log - this will deflate the air. Cut into 12 equal pieces.
Take one piece and press down with your palm, then use your fingers to gather into a ball, then roll the dough briefly to form a ball. 
Place the ball with the smooth side up on the tray. Repeat with the remaining dough. Line them up 3 x 4.

Dough Rise #2

Spray a piece of cling wrap lightly with oil (any), then loosely place over the tray.
Return tray to warm place and leave 30 - 45 minutes until the dough has risen by about 75% (less than double in size).
Partway through dough rise #2, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit  (180 C) 

Bake for 22 minutes, or until the surface is a deep golden brown. The surface color is the best test for this recipe.

Glaze: 

Meanwhile, place jam and water in a bowl, microwave for 30 seconds. Mix to combine.
Remove buns from the oven. Use overhang to lift buns onto a cooling rack. (If you do not have apricot jam you can substitute honey or maple syrup as a glaze.) Brush buns with jam mixture while warm. Allow buns to cool before icing.

Icing Crosses:

Mix  
1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
3 Tablespoons of milk and a splash of vanilla extract for plain icing
Pipe a thick cross made from icing on each bun after baking, when buns are cooled and glazed.
Use a piping bag– no piping tip needed– or a zipped-top bag. Snip the corner off. Allow icing to dry before eating.  Enjoy!



As you can see, the grandchildren enjoyed having both sets of grandparents to celebrate with this year.  They are all getting so big!





I made lots of holiday favorites--we had a table full of appetizers to start, followed by stuffed macaroni shells. eggplant rollatini, pineapple glazed spiral ham, leg of lamb and lamb chops, corn pudding, asparagus, broccoli, mixed mushrooms, and batter-fried cauliflower.  



Besides the Hot Cross Buns, I also made a lemon cheesecake, cupcakes for the grandchildren, a blueberry Bundt cake, and my daughter-in-law brought a tray of chocolate pretzel nests that she made with the children.  Needless to say, we were all stuffed!  Happily, everyone took home a tray of leftovers so nothing goes to waste.  



I've been taking lots of hikes into the foothills lately--they really help clear my mind. Easter was a wonderful day after a week before that was very sad.  Thank you to all who commented and consoled me on the terrible tragedy that happened in nearby Boulder, Colorado. That really shook me to my core in its senselessness. I keep praying for a better, kinder, world for my grandchildren to grow up in. Stay positive that we can all be a part of that!


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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Tears for Boulder

 

Postcard of Boulder, Colorado

Evil came to Boulder, Colorado this week.  On an early spring day when the sky was filled with impending snow that was in the forecast, ten people went about their morning routine never dreaming that it would be their last day. They were young; twenty years old, and seniors in their early 60's.  Some were going to work at a grocery store in their scenic front-range town. Perhaps they smiled at their view of the pretty snow-filled Flat Iron mountains in the distance.  Some were thinking, "I have to pick up my prescription today at the grocery store," or " I have to remember to pick up more eggs for the weekend" or "I think I'll stop into the grocery store to pick up lunch today, instead of bringing it from home."  A police officer put on his uniform and Boulder Police badge said goodbye to his wife and seven children and reported for work. 

Evil was at his family's home in the next town. He prepared his assault rifle weapon, put on a tactical vest, and drove his brother's car to a Kings Sooper grocery store in Boulder, where over 58 minutes he willfully shot to death ten innocent people. 


The Boulder Police Department released the names of the deceased the next day: Police Officer Eric Talley, 51; Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Teri Leiker, 51; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray. 62; and Jodi Waters, 65. 

You can read about them all here.

Officer Talley's Patrol car has become a memorial covered with flowers

The first recorded mass killing by gun in the USA occurred in 1949. In 1966 Evil climbed to the top tower of the main building of the University of Texas at Austin and opened fire with a gun indiscriminately at the people surrounding the campus. Fifteen died.  In 1984 Evil walked into a McDonald's restaurant in San Diego, California, and fatally shot twenty-one people to death.  I could go on and on and on. In the last five years, there have been at least 29 shootings with four or more fatalities, according to a database compiled by the Violence Project.  In 2020, gun violence, of all causes, including suicides, killed 43,536 people in the United States. We are not the most violent country in the world--right now many countries in South America lead in that distinction, but that is little consolation for all the victims.


A memorial of flowers and notes and candles grew day by day on a

 fence that was placed around the parking lot of the grocery store in Boulder.

Evil keeps rearing its anger, its hate, its mental illness, and its paranoid delusion in senseless mass killings of innocent people. In my state of Colorado, 47 people have died from mass shootings in seven incidents since 1991. 

How many more incidents are to come? What is the answer? Do we provide better mental health services, prevent bullying in schools, ban violent video games, ban semi-assault rifles, do extensive background checks during gun sales, promote Red Flag Laws, stop media coverage to discourage copycat events...pray harder? 

As long as there are guns there will be gun violence. As long as assault weapons are sold there is the potential for mass casualties and killings. No place, be it a church, school, theater, fast food restaurant, community center, concert, highway, etc., is safe from danger.

 


A posting Colorado Governor Polis placed on Facebook this week encouraging readers to reach out to their family and friends. 

When a mass shooting occurs, especially nearby, everyone's anxiety rises, and someone reaching out to say "I care" can make a big difference and give that person a chance to talk and express their sadness. Other suggestions to help deal with anxiety can be read here.

I know that each incident in which a person goes to work and never comes home triggers extreme sadness in me.  That happened to my father. When I was a teenager, he went to work one day and a mentally ill person at his job took his life along with wounding two others.   When a tragic incident like this happens I feel pain all over again and extreme sadness. I truly feel empathy for what victim's families go through. Trauma like this never goes away. 


Boulder, Colorado, is a special place for us as our son went to graduate school there and lived there for a few years afterward. It was the first place we visited in Colorado when we lived in New York. We all fell in love with Colorado and made the decision to live here. But no matter where one lives a tragedy such as the one that happened in Boulder can happen. We cry for Boulder today and know the week ahead will be full of sorrow for the families of the victims as they are laid to rest. Please pray for them and pray for our nation. Deliver us from evil. Amen.

It has been a very sad week. With Holy Week and Easter approaching, I'll be taking a short blog break. 

Have a very Blessed and Happy Easter!

 

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Monday, March 22, 2021

The Cold War Horse of Rocky Flats



Along a road in northern Arvada, Colorado, stands a statue called the "Cold War Horse" Memorial. The horse is easy to spot, as it is clad in an electric red hazmat suit, black rubber boots, and a respirator.  The memorial was created by artist Jeff Gipe to acknowledge the history of the Rocky Flats Plant, its workers, and the surrounding community.  Gipe's father worked at the plant for over 20 years. Rocky Flats Plant was a nuclear weapons production facility that had a huge influence during the Cold War era, from 1952 ro 1992. For nearly forty years, the plant manufactured the plutonium triggers of nearly every nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal. It’s estimated that 70,000 plutonium triggers were produced at this plant. Plutonium is a highly toxic and radioactive substance, and special precautions had to be taken during production.

According to the artist's website:

"After a second major plutonium fire in 1969, the second largest plutonium fire at the facility, citizen protests gained momentum and urged Rocky Flats to cease operations. In 1989, the FBI in conjunction with the EPA raided the complex in the first ever inter-governmental raid. Many violations were discovered and production was halted. The plant’s operators later admitted and pleaded guilty to environmental crimes. Soon after the raid, the plant site was put on the EPA superfund cleanup list. In 1993, the Secretary of Energy announced the end of the Rocky Flats nuclear production mission.
The original estimate for remediation of the site was in excess of $37 billion and projected to require 70 years for completion. The Department of Energy and Kaiser Hill devised an accelerated compromise plan that cut costs to $7 billion and just one decade for completion."

You can read more about the Rocky Flats Plant on this link


Today, the Rocky Flats Plant is gone. The site of the former facility consists of two distinct areas: the "Central Operable Unit" (including the former industrial area), which remains off-limits to the public as a CERCLA "Superfund" site, owned and managed by the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



Next to the Cold War Horse is a plaque with the same description as that on the website and an image of the Rocky Flast Plant before it was torn down.




On the fence surrounding the horse sculpture are two dedication plaques. One is in memory of Dru Nelson, a young man who passed away in July of 2015 who was passionate about the environment and the other is in appreciation to Bruce and Janice Roberts for their assistance in getting the Cold War Horse displayed.  There is also a box attached to the fence that states "Share Your Story," and where questions, comments, concerns, and donations can be left.  

Not without controversy, the Cold War Horse Memorial, which was erected in 2015, was badly vandalized by unknown assailants just two weeks later. The artist was not deterred, however, and the Cold War Horse was repaired and now resides in the same spot, surrounded by a fence, lights, and cameras armed with motion sensors.



As you can see in the photo collage above, the city of Denver is located around 16 miles east, and many new homes are being built in areas surrounding Rocky Flats. The Cold War Horse Memorial looms over it all as a stark reminder of what was once located here and what should not be forgotten.

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Monday, March 15, 2021

Denver's March Blizzard of 2021

If you live in the USA you might have heard of the news that Colorado was going to have a massive snowstorm this weekend. 




The weather channel on TV was showing this news all day on Friday.

 They were calling the storm "Xylia."





They were right!

It rained on Friday and some of Saturday, and we thought maybe the storm wouldn't be as bad as predicted, but then the snow began falling....and falling and falling!

Sunday morning we had constant howling winds and about 18 inches of snow had fallen in our area. It is not over, as it is going to keep snowing until sometime Monday.  

My husband worked hard clearing snow off our driveway even using a powerful snow blower.  I helped out doing what I could with a shovel.  Thankfully, our power has stayed on and we were inside our home safe and warm most of the day. 



I took this video early Sunday morning just to show how hard the wind was blowing. The storm was later officially declared a blizzard by afternoon.




We enjoyed hot chocolate after shoveling the snow.



 
I simmered pork tenderloin in my slow cooker on low all day. It was stewed in tomatoes with onions, celery, carrots, garlic, bell peppers, zucchini, garden squash, snap peas, butter beans, mushrooms, and spices. I also made cheesy polenta and served the stewed vegetables over the polenta with the pork served on the side.  It was delicious-- just what we needed for a wintery day! 

I hope you have sunshine and spring flowers where you are...I'm sure they will arrive here, too, someday,  but right now snow is normal for "Springtime in the Rockies" and we are enjoying it all!

PS: My second covid vaccine went well and I had no other symptoms afterward except for a tender arm for a few days.  It is such a relief! In the meantime, my friends, stay healthy and safe!

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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Women's Bean Project


More often than not, if you visit my home, you will find a pot of soup bubbling away on my stove. We love a bowl of hearty soup and chilis all year long.  They also often fill my slow cooker on busy days, or on days too hot to cook on the stovetop or oven.  I make big batches and freeze the extra, or I drop some over at my daughter's house so she does not have to cook after a busy day at work.  

If you look at my Pinterest boards you will find a board for Soups, Stews, and Chowders with countless recipes for soups that I've collected and tried over the years. We also love beans of all kinds and my Chili Creations Pinterest board reflects that favorite one-bowl meal.




One of my favorite products I use to make soup, or chili, is packages from the Women's Bean Project. I discovered this wonderful Colorado non-profit organization through my daughter, as the company she works for is one of the corporate sponsors of their program.  They sell their products in nearly 1,000 stores nationwide, including King Soopers, Whole Foods, Safeway, Meijer, and H.E.B., as well as small specialty retailers. You can also shop for their products online on their website, Amazon.com, and Walmart.com.  You can click on a map on their website--here--to see if they are sold in a store near you.

The Woman's Bean Project's mission is to change women’s lives by providing stepping stones to self-sufficiency through social enterprise. 

They believe that
"...all women have the power to transform their lives through employment. So we hire women who are chronically unemployed and we teach them to work by making nourishing products. They learn to stand tall, find their purpose and break the cycle of poverty. Because when you change a woman’s life, you change her family’s life."

As it also explains on their website: 
"Back in 1989, our founder, Jossy Eyre, was volunteering at a daytime women’s shelter in Denver, CO. She realized that while the shelter kept the women safe, it could not help them make lasting changes in their lives. To help the women achieve independence and self-sufficiency, she needed to provide an opportunity to experience the dignity of work by learning how to get – and keep – a job. She invested $500 of her own money and put two women to work; the start of the social enterprise we are today."
 




You can read some of the stories of the many women that have been helped by the Women's Bean Project on this link. I love that each package is hand-signed by one of the women in the program.  Buying their products really has an impact on helping women learn job skills, gain independence and feel empowered to change their lives for the better.

As you can see by the photos above the recipe on the package is easy to follow.  They also have recipes using their products on their websiteI have never been disappointed by any of their products, which says a lot as I live at a high altitude and often have difficulty cooking dried beans because of our lower boiling point. Their beans always cook well and taste delicious! 

They also sell other products through their website other than soups and chili mixes. They have spice blends, snacks, coffee and tea, baking mixes, instant meals, popcorn, and even dog treats for sale, as well as gift boxes and sets.



As you can see, I love making and eating soup and chili!  
Many in this photo collage were made with the Women's Bean Project Packages. 




This is how I like to make easy vegetable stock. I save almost all my washed vegetable and herb peelings, stems, and ends in freezer bags until I have two large bags full. I then empty the bags into a pot, cover them with water, and simmer it all for a couple of hours. When they all cook down I strain out all the vegetables and place the stock they made in containers to freeze for future use in soups and stews and chilis.   It's a great way to not waste anything!  If you have never done this before give it a try.


I'm headed to this pretty town in Colorado this upcoming week to get my second dose of covid vaccine. It will be such a relief!  I'll let you know how I fared afterward in my next blog post.

In the meantime, my friends, stay healthy and safe!


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I'm linking this post to some of the following blog events:

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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Snowy Colorado

Regarding Winter......

"One must have a mind of winter 

To regard the frost and the boughs 

of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time

To behold the junipers shagged with ice,

the spruces rough in the distant glitter

of the sun."

~ Wallace Stevens




We had quite a snowfall this past week! 

Denver’s total February snowfall total now stands at 13.5 inches, solidifying the city’s third straight "snowier than normal" February. The total seasonal snowfall total sits just below 34 inches, which is right on track with the long-term normal through the end of February for the Denver area. March is typically Denver’s snowiest month of the year so, hopefully, our state will be above normal in snowpack this year, which will benefit our reservoirs and rivers. 

 Did you know that snowmelt from Colorado furnishes water for seven other states? We love snow!


I live in a suburb of Denver, in a community next to the foothills and we had 9.6 inches of snow this storm instead of Denver's 12 plus inches.  The good thing about snow along the Colorado front range is that the dry ground almost immediately begins to soak up the moisture and the hot sunshine melts it quickly. 



A drive through my neighborhood the day after the snowfall.



"Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness.”

~ Mary Oliver




We leave the leaves from our trees on the ground in the fall as we know the deer come by to eat them all winter.  They will dig under the snow looking for them.




This little fawn hiding amused me during the snowstorm.  He hid under a pine tree that is next to my window. He kept peeking out, but didn't want to get wet! Happily, his Mother came for him after a little while when the snow stopped falling.
,



Happy month of March! 

The month of February seemed to fly by for me.  The collage above shows many happy occasions we had last month...Valentine roses, a chocolate heart cake that I made, a granddaughter's birthday and her first time skiing, two other grandchildren's Valentine mailboxes they made to bring to school to collect their Valentine cards, homemade beignets for Mardi Gras, and delicious Lemon Pound Cakes, using Ina Garten's recipe. They were so good!  A bit of lemony sunshine to brighten up a winter day.

Are there signs of spring where you are or is winter holding on a bit longer?

 Stay healthy and safe!

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I'm linking this post to some of the following blog events:

 Mosaic Monday, All SeasonsBlue Monday, Through My Lens MondayLittle Cottage Link PartyHearth, and Soul Link PartyYou Are the Star Blog Hop, Inspire Me MondayHome Matters Linky Party,  Good Random FunNature NotesGrand SocialTravel Photos, Travel TuesdayHappiness Is HomemadeOver the MoonCreate, Bake, Make Our World TuesdayRuby TuesdayTuesday Turn AboutTuesdays With A TwistLet's Keep In TouchWordless Wednesday on a Tuesday,  Party in Your PJ'sWordless WednesdayNanahood WWOh My Heartsie Girl's Wonderful Wednesday, Your Whims WednesdayWednesday My Corner of the WorldWonderful Wednesday Little Things ThursdayThankful ThursdayThursday Encouraging Hearts and Home,  Thursday Thinking Out Loud, Friendship FridaysFriday Features Linky Party, Skywatch FridayPink Saturday, Saturday CrittersSunday on Silverado 

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