Friday, July 30, 2010

Sweet As Pie

I probably learned as much as a 4-H parent as I did as a 4-Her. Until Jill started experimenting with pies for fair baking, I was more likely to use a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust than make my own.

It's not as if I didn't have some pie baking in my background. Both my grandmothers were good pie bakers. My Grandma Neelly's green apple pie was my favorite summer time pie. My Grandma Leonard's pumpkin pie was my fall pastry of choice.

When Jill started baking pies for the county fair, I learned right along with her. First step was finding a good pie crust recipe. After several false starts, I called my sister, Lisa, who was already proficient at pie baking.

Her Never Fail Pie Crust recipe lives up to the name.

Purchasing a pastry cloth was another step in making pie baking easier. I don't usually use the "stockinet" that came with it on my rolling pin. But rolling out the pie dough on a lightly-floured pastry cloth instead of on a counter or between sheets of waxed paper has definitely streamlined the process for me. It was worth the investment of a few dollars for a pastry cloth.

Still, I don't make pie as often as my husband would like. With the lower price of blueberries in the grocery store, it was time to fulfill my promise to my husband that he would get his favorite pie.

A blueberry pie is super easy, compared to making an apple pie and having to peel, core and slice all the fruit. It's also easier than a peach pie, when you have to blanch the fruit to remove the peels and then slice.

So, here's my version of Blueberry Pie:

Blueberry Pie
Pastry for 9-inch two-crust pie (See Never Fail Pie Crust below)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. margarine or butter

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare pastry. Mix sugar, flour and cinnamon. Combine blueberries and lemon juice. Add dry mixture to blueberries and toss lightly. Pour blueberry mixture into pastry-lined pie plate. Dot with margarine or butter. Cover with top crust that has slits cut into it (or use a small cookie cutter to make a design.) Seal and flute the crust.

Cover edge with foil shields. Bake until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust, 35 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven.

Since fresh blueberries are not always available, you may substitute unsweetened frozen blueberries, partially thawed, for the fresh blueberries. (One 12-ounce package yields 2 1/2 cups.)

Never Fail Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups shortening
5 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 egg, beaten

Stir together flour and salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until well blended. Stir together water, vinegar and beaten egg. Add to flour mixture. Stir with a fork until a dough starts to form and pulls away from the side of the bowl. You may need to use your hands to help form it into a ball. Divide into thirds, as this recipe makes 3 crusts (enough for a 2-crusted pie and one single crust. I usually just put the extra crust in the freezer to use later for a one-crust pie.)

STEP BY STEP - A Photo Essay for Homemade Pie

Combine the dry ingredients for the pie dough (flour and salt). Note: I use Hudson Cream flour in all my baking. It has been milled at the Stafford County Flour Mills in Hudson for the past 106 years.

Combine the wet ingredients for the pie dough (beaten egg, water and vinegar).

Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender ...

... until shortening is well distributed.

Add the wet ingredients and stir with a fork. As the two combine, the dough will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Use your hands to form dough into a ball. Cut into thirds. Form each part into a ball.

Put a one-third ball of the dough on a flour-dusted pastry cloth and press down to form a circle.

Using a floured rolling pin, keep rolling in different directions to retain the round shape.

Roll out the pie crust dough until it is about 2 inches larger than the inverted pie pan.

Fold the pie crust into quarters.

Put the dough into the pie plate and unfold to cover the pie tin.

Put the blueberry mixture into the bottom crust.

Dot with butter.

Roll out the top crust, using the same procedure as before. Put on top of blueberries.

Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1 inches from rim of plate. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal. The judge at the Hudson Cream Flour Bakeoff suggested putting ice cold water on the bottom crust to make a seal between the top and bottom crust - kind of like glue.

Flute the edges. I place my index finger on the inside of the pastry rim, thumb and index finger on the outside, and pinch the pastry into a v-shape. (I missed that step in the photos - sorry!)

Using a mini cookie cutter, remove a portion of the top crust so the pie is vented. (Some people just cut slits in the top crust. That is fine, too. I've seen people make slits that look like a wheat stalk. I'm just not that artistic!)

Use foil pie shields to cover your pie crust. This prevents overbrowning.

I have tried a circular, metal pie shield, but they never seem to fit the pan correctly.

Bake as directed, until crust is golden brown and filling starts to bubble, about 35 to 45 minutes, depending upon your oven. Remove from oven and put on wire rack to cool.

Once the pie is fairly cool, it's ready to serve. (You can serve it hot, but the filling won't hold together as well). Top with ice cream, if desired. Enjoy!


Because you've trimmed the extra pie dough from the edges of your pan, you can use the excess for a cinnamon-sugar topped treat.

Just roll out the leftover dough and put on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

This is one of my favorite memories of baking with my Grandma Neelly. We even had a miniature rolling pin that we could use to roll out the extra dough.

Just bake until the crust is golden brown.

Break into pieces and enjoy (if you can do it without thinking about the calories)!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kernels of Memories

This post is in memory of my mother-in-law, Marie Fritzemeier, whose birthday was July 29, 1932. She died in October 1996.

Corn on the cob is the very taste of summertime. Randy bought some at a stand in Hutchinson not long ago. It reminded me of marathon sessions putting up sweet corn with his family.

We don't raise corn, but my parents and brother do. With most of our ground near Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, the groundwater is too salty for irrigation. Some people in the area raise dryland corn, but it's not in the crop rotation here on The County Line.

On one of my morning routes, I do walk past some dryland corn belonging to a neighbor. The leaves whisper "Good morning" in the Kansas breeze and usually have me singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" in my head:

"The corn is as high as an elephant's eye
And it looks like it's climbing clear up to the sky."

Though I walk by the field with some regularity, I can assure you that the corn we consumed was from a Gaeddert's Sweet Corn Stand.

The corn near our house is field corn. I'm not particularly picky, and I can eat field corn, too. But it doesn't belong to us.

Some people evidently don't have that moral compass. One of our friends was checking an irrigation system a few evenings ago. He saw a pickup coming down the service lane, and he waited at the end of the road, assuming it was his crop consultant.

The pickup charged right past him - full of ears of corn in the truck bed.

Just in case you are ever inclined to "borrow" corn from someone, remember that you don't know whether or not it's just been treated with a herbicide, insecticide or fertilizer. Just a little word to the wise.

I know corn on the cob is nearly irresistible. That's why the Fritzemeier clan was intent on preserving the summertime taste.

But the time putting up corn was more than that. It was a time of working together with four generations, if you count the pint-sized help from Jill and Brent.

It's just one example of the rich legacy my kids have because they lived 2 miles from one set of grandparents and less than an hour away from the other set.

We don't always appreciate what we have until it is gone. I was thankful for Marie when she was here, but I probably didn't truly appreciate her enough. There are certainly no wicked mother-in-law stories to share. I was blessed to have in-laws who welcomed me to their family and made me feel like another daughter.

Marie's death left a hole in all our lives. But that's the great thing about memories. They help fill us up. I am so thankful that both my kids got to spend a lot of time with Grandma Marie - whether we were working or playing together as a family.

You get a glimpse at some of those memories we built through my July 25, 1990, At Home with Kim column in The Hutchinson News. It recounted one of our annual rituals, and I've reprinted it as a tribute to Marie.

I wish I'd taken photos of this family tradition. But when you are knee deep in corn husks and elbow deep in sticky corn, I guess you don't think about recording the event on film until it's too late.

After Marie died unexpectedly in 1996, we didn't put up corn again. But the memories live on.


The Hutchinson News
At Home with Kim,
July 25, 1990

At first, the pile of corn in the back of the pickup didn't look all that big.

"That's all you got?" my mother-in-law asked after Randy and Melvin made a trip to my folks' Pratt County farm for sweet corn.

To the guys, it seemed like plenty after hauling it to the pickup. And, as the day wore on, we thought maybe the little pile wasn't so little after all.

At the Fritzemeier house, putting up corn is a family affair if the guys aren't busy in the field. Since it has been dry, they traded their tractor seats for overturned buckets in the backyard under a shade tree.

Henry Ford had the right idea years ago. Like any good assembly line, we had our respective duties. There are huskers and silkers. Marie read a tip in a magazine last year about using dry terrycloth washrags to silk the corn. Try it: It works.

And we all had our hands full watching our youngest helper - 2-year-old Brent. He was an unofficial silker. In other words, he'd grab any ear he could, take a few swipes with an extra washrag and try to drop it in the water before anyone would holler at him.

More than a few ears took a premature bath before ending up with an official silker.

For Brent, the few worms we found in the corn were a treasure rather than a nuisance. He and his sister have become quite the fishermen this summer, so he was ready to forget the corn and have fun. The dry weather has made finding earthworms a challenge, so discovering a worm in an ear of corn was as good as getting a prize out of a cereal box.

Jill got in a few digs - literally - with a vegetable brush on some ears in her rendition of silking before she had to leave to attend story hour at the library. But Great Grandma Ava's taxi service arrived back from town just in time for Jill to help transfer unhusked ears from the front of the pickup to the back, where we were working.

By the time we finished husking, our shade was about to give out. And by then, Melvin was already inside cooking corn. If he's around, it's always his official duty. No one's fighting him for the job.

Our next mission: cutting the corn off the cob. Everyone has his own technique, I learned last year, my first for this joint endeavor. But a must at the Fritzemeier corn party is scraping the cobs after cutting to get any milky residue from the cobs.

By the time we got the first batch cut off, it was time for dinner. Central to the menu was piping-hot corn on the cob.

This was Brent's first try at eating corn on the cob. He had some trouble wrapping his mouth around the big cob. But once he figured out how to bite it, our novice got a big, buttery grin like the rest of us.

Jill eats corn in the same haphazard way as her father. She crunches erratically all over the cob, unlike we civilized people who methodically get every juicy morsel on the cob.

Melvin's first batch didn't last, and we had to cook more to satisfy our appetites. Ava had brought fresh peach pie, but several of us turned it down to have more corn. If you turn down Ava's pie, you must be hungry for fresh corn.

With tummies stuffed full of corn, a nap seemed more appealing than slicing off more corn. But cut we did.

By 3 PM, we'd frozen 56 pints and saved some ears for cooking on the cob. Though it doesn't seem possible to me now, I do remember, as a kid, getting tired of corn on the cob when corn was in season.

Thankful for the memories today ...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Legacy of Agriculture

This post is in honor of my Grandpa Shelby Neelly, who was born July 28, 1904, and died at age 100.

Grandpa Neelly wasn't a person who sought the spotlight. He was larger than life, a big, barrel-chested guy who played football at K-State.

He was loud, especially at the end of his life when his hearing faltered and he evidently thought the rest of us were hard of hearing, too.

He could visit with anyone. He was a natural-born storyteller. Up to the day he died, he could share stories and had a better memory than I've ever thought about having.

He was one of the people who helped develop the rural electric cooperative in Pratt County back in the 1940s. He served on the Ninnescah Rural Electric Board and also the Kansas Rural Electric Cooperative board.

He was a farmer. He obviously believed in rural development.

So I guess it wasn't too much of a stretch to think of him while I was at the Profit Maximizer Wheat Summit last week in Wichita.

My favorite speaker was Dr. Jay Lehr of the Heartland Institute in Ostrander, Ohio. He challenged every person there to become a promoter of agriculture.

He was a grandfatherly figure, a guy who has spent five decades studying economics, agronomy, environmental science and business administration. Granted, he is a grandfatherly figure who is a competitive runner and who likes to jump out of airplanes on a regular basis. But that's another story.

He is a great cheerleader for American agriculture.

To introduce Dr. Lehr, they showed a video of him talking to people on the streets of San Francisco about fertilizer. I found it on youtube and have included it here. If you're involved in agriculture, you should watch the clip.

He's not really proposing that we become a public nuisance to strangers. He was making a point. We need to share our story, the story of modern agriculture.

The video was produced from seven hours of hidden camera footage. He talked to 65 different people. All but two of those encounters ended up in an animated discussion of agriculture, where the people asked questions and wanted to know more.

He wants the ag industry to know that people are interested in agriculture. And it's up to the American farmer and rancher to tell them about it.

If we don't, organizations like the Humane Society of the United States will do it for us.

I personally don't want HSUS talking for me. These are not the folks who want to find homes for wayward and unwanted dogs and cats. These are the people who want to do away with my way of life and my livelihood. They want everyone to be a vegetarian. They want agriculture to go back to the horse and buggy days.

They don't want the American public to know the truth about agriculture.

Lehr knows most farmers are more comfortable talking to their buddies at the coffee shop and comparing notes about how much rain was in the gauge.

But he insists that we need to get outside our comfort zones and talk to other people. Even people in our small towns don't always understand modern agriculture. They are much more likely to hear messages from environmentalists and believe agriculture is harming our planet.

"We know we as farmers have been sustainable for more than 100 years," Lehr said. "The world thinks farmers are screwing up the environment with all your inputs. They are convinced you are pouring gallons or barrels of chemicals on your crops."

So how does a farmer combat the mainline media giants or the organizations like HSUS or Greenpeace that seem to want to ride the bandwagon against agriculture? It can be as simple as carrying a bottle of Visine.

A Visine bottle holds 1 ounce of liquid. Lehr suggests a little show and tell while you let people know the true story of modern agriculture.

As an example, he said it takes less than an ounce per acre of Olympus herbicide to combat weeds and increase yield.

"At the most, farmers are using 6 ounces (or the equivalent of 6 bottles of Visine) of some chemicals per acre to increase yield and decrease disease," Lehr said. "That's less than a glass of water on a whole acre."

He said that setting aside time every week or every month to tell the story of modern agriculture should be part of the cost of doing business.

"Set aside time in your life to promote agriculture to those who don't understand it. The greatest problem with agriculture today isn't the volatility of the price of inputs. It's not the volatility of prices. It's the negative attitude toward farming. Environmental zealots want to convince the public that you are spoiling the land.

"You need to become an agriculture activist. Share your knowledge with the people around you. We make small talk about our hobbies or our children. Instead, we ought to be talking about our livelihoods."

Let people know that despite "news" to the contrary, the family farm is not dead. There are 2 million farms in the U.S. Only 1 percent are owned by absentee organizations.

We need to let people know that if we don't use herbicides and insecticides, people across the globe will starve.

We need to tell people that we are the best land conservationists.

"We produce three times more food than we did 40 years ago with greater yields on less land," Lehr said.

And we need to let people know that every day is Earth Day on the farm, not just April 22.

So what does all this have to do with my Grandpa? Honestly, I don't see my overall-clad Grandpa roaming the streets of San Francisco and telling the story of agriculture. He was a reluctant traveler who liked sleeping in his own bed at night.

But I do know I have an obligation. My brother is farming ground my Grandpa Neelly farmed. It is land that was first owned by our great-great grandparents.

On the Moore side of the family, my nephew Brian was the sixth generation to run a combine during the 2010 harvest on ground that's been cultivated by Moores practically since the area was settled.

My husband is a fifth-generation farmer on both sides of his family.

This is our life. This is our livelihood. This is our legacy.

Grandpa Neelly on his 100th birthday with the great-grandkids:
Front row: Abby, Paige, Grandpa, Jill and Madison.
Back row: Blake, Brian and Brent.

So when I tell the story of agriculture, I do tell the story for my Grandpa Neelly and my Grandpa Leonard and my Grandpa Moore. I tell it for their parents and grandparents who made this life possible for my family. I tell it for the Fritzemeiers and the Hornbakers in Randy's farming heritage.

It is MY story to tell. If it's yours, you need to tell it, too.

If you want to hear more directly from Dr. Lehr, visit his website, There's an audio stream of Lehr talking at the 2010 Commodity Classic. It's a much more serious look at promoting agriculture than the San Francisco clip. It's definitely worth the listen if you're in this business.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fully Dressed

Life according to Annie: "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

"Who cares what they're wearing
On Main Street or Saville Row?
It's what you wear from ear to ear
And not from head to toe that matters."

It was easy to smile last week when I collected on my birthday present, one that was definitely worth waiting for. Randy got me tickets to Music Theatre of Wichita's production of "Annie."

I didn't realize it until we got to Century II, but the tickets were on the second row.

Leapin' Lizards! It was close enough to check out the orchestra pit just by standing up. And you could see every expression on every actor's face.

It was this musical lover's dream come true! Even better, he didn't have to pay extra for the seats.

If you leave a performance of "Annie" with a frown on your face, it must be a really bad day. The whole musical is filled with optimism in the face of a "Hard-Knock Life."

Our Wichita trip also gave me a change of pace, so to speak, on my daily walk.

I couldn't believe it when I saw the hay bales just off the walking path behind the Marriott. (We are usually more Motel 6 or Super 8-type people, but the Marriott was where the Wheat Profit Maximizer summit was held, and that's the real reason we were going to Wichita in the first place. More on the wheat profit event in tomorrow's blog ...).

Some farmer had to get through the traffic on Webb Road in Wichita to bale this little field of Johnson grass. I didn't envy him, but it sure made me feel at home.

It was a beautiful morning for a walk, with the sun just peaking out and making a drainage area look more like a picturesque oasis.

I'm used to finding hidden treasures along the way as I walk. Among the grasses was this pretty purple flower being explored by a brilliantly-colored insect.

I had a great walking companion, too.

Wichita was the perfect little getaway.

But then it was back to reality. Sometimes reality is a little hard to smile at.

I must admit it was a little tough to find my inner "Annie" after about 3 hours on the phone with my internet provider this weekend. Nothing like trying to converse with customer service people in India to ruin a day.

My hubby suggested a break, so I rode with him to check rain gauges and pastures.

And who can stay upset when surrounded by a beautiful sky like this one?

It took a walk to straighten out my attitude and realize that Annie was right: The sun will come out tomorrow. (Who knows what time that happens in India, but that's another story, right?)

It was just another instance when it doesn't hurt to live with an eternal optimist. The rain over the weekend seemed to mirror my mood - dark and stormy and a little indignant after my customer "service" nightmares.

And, yes, it rained again on our swathed hay. Pretty much every bit of hay we've put down this year has been rained on. (You can send your thank you notes for your timely rainfalls to The County Line!)

But again, it was just in time to help the milo crop. There had been a few heads popping up in the field. The rain will help fill the heads with grain.

It gave the emerging sudan feed crop a great drink of water.

It helped green up the pastures after a week of 100-degree-plus weather.

So, with a little help from the hubby and glimpses of beauty on The County Line, I guess I'm back to being more like Annie and less like the nasty Miss Hannigan in the play.

I will endeavor to keep it up. Hope your day produces its share of smiles, too!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fair Game

This photo won a Champion ribbon at the Pratt County Fair last week.

Old habits die hard.

I've been exhibiting things at county fairs since I was 10 years old. I was a fourth grader and a member of the Lincoln Bluebirds 4-H Club.

My only project my first year was "Snacks and Little Lunches," a foods and nutrition project. According to my meticulous record book, my first fair netted a blue ribbon on cookies and red ribbons on both my cupcakes and brownies.

If my 4-H story is to be believed, I had a "lot of fun." In fact, several times, I had "a lot of fun." Perhaps my descriptive writing had not yet been developed.

But, at any rate, I evidently did have "a lot of fun." Here we are ... um ... several years later, and I'm still entering exhibits in county fairs.

I told you last week about my adventures with the Hudson Cream Flour Bakefest. At the Stafford County Fair, I also entered photography and a family book I made for my folks commemorating our family's designation as K-State's Family of the Year in 2009.

Last year, we were in the midst of wedding preparations, and I didn't enter anything. I guess I was making up for lost time this year. I enlarged and matted 18 8- by 10-inch photos and then two 4- by 6-inch photos for a separate calendar contest at the Stafford fair. In open class there, only the top three photos in each class are awarded a ribbon and the accompanying premium money.

I ended up with two firsts, six seconds and three thirds. My premium money didn't begin to cover the cost of enlarging photos, buying matboard and special plastic bags, but I felt pretty good about having more than half "in the money," so to speak.

It's not about the money. It's about being part of something bigger. If people don't enter, there's nothing to look at during the fair. And if there's nothing to look at, nobody is going to come. And if no one comes, fairs are going to die.

Because of a decreasing population base, there are already fewer exhibits than there were back when I was a kid. Or maybe it's just a shift in the kind of 4-H projects kids take today. Back in my day, there were lots of little girls in clothing construction. Today, very few 4-Hers construct their own clothing or other items. There are no longer racks of home-sewn clothing hanging at county fairgrounds.

But photography seems to be alive and well. There were lots of entries in both the 4-H and open class divisions.

Because of blogging, I seem to grab the camera more often. So I had a lot of photos to choose from this year.

Since I already had the time, effort and money invested in the enlargements, I also entered photos last week in the Pratt County Fair, my hometown fair. Actually my parents entered them for me. We were out of town, and I guess you are never too old for your parents to help you out. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

The judging is a little different for open class at the Pratt County Fair. The judge awards ribbons to all the entries. I was limited to 10 entries there, and I got 8 blues and 2 reds. Of my 8 blues, three were awarded Top Blue in their class. And one was chosen as a Champion (the one at the top of the post, which, by the way, had gotten 2nd in its class at the Stafford Fair.)

I took this photo in January. Because I had used the May basket photo as my color still-life entry, I converted it to black and white. It won a Top Blue at Pratt and a blue ribbon at Stafford.

The frog was Top Blue in the Animals and Pets division in open class at Pratt and got a blue at Stafford.

I think that's interesting. Judging is one person's opinion on one day. If I judged the same contest, I might choose something else entirely. If you lined 10 people up and had them judge the contest, there might be 10 different winners. So it was interesting to have the consistency on these two photos despite different judges.

My K-State Family of the Year book got blue ribbons at both Stafford and Pratt County Fairs.

So here we are, back to the question at hand: Why exhibit at the county fair?

People have been experiencing fairs since the days of the Roman empire (At least that's what Wikipedia - the authority of all things - told me). I suppose there's a little rush to being chosen "best" at something, satisfying that little kernel of competitiveness in the human spirit.

But I truly think it's about helping to make sure fairs last another 2,000 years. (Maybe women in Jerusalem met in the city square while gathering water and decided who had the best flat bread. Yes, I know I have a vivid imagination.)

Fairs give people an excuse to come together, to visit with people they don't see everyday.

It gives guys an opportunity to eat food their wives won't fix them at home everyday (Yes, I think Randy had pie every day he was there.)

It brings volunteers together to work on something that's bigger than what any one person could accomplish on their own.

It's about being part of a community. I'll give that a purple ribbon any day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Agony of Defeat

My plans for entering the bread portion of the Hudson Cream Flour Bakeoff came crashing down around me last weekend.

Really, they came CRASHING down around me and shattered into about a million pieces.

Just so no one believes life always goes as planned here at The County Line kitchen, I am giving a little equal time to my monumental failure. Sure, most of the time, I try to post pretty photos of my cookies, pies and casseroles.

But, here's a little truth in advertising: Sometimes, things don't exactly qualify for a photo session at Better Homes and Gardens (unless they are illustrating the Top 10 Kitchen Disasters of All Time).

Here is Exhibit A - the Wide Angle View, just so everyone can feel a little bit better about any inadequacies they might feel they have in the kitchen.

Even this view isn't wide enough to see the glass that ended up traveling from the dining room all the way to the kitchen when my glass bowl "jumped" off the table and broke into a million pieces (I know it was a million because I had to pick them ALL up!)

I was attempting to make Nutty Orange Wheat Bread. And, if you can look beyond the shards of glass, you can see that it was rising nicely. Too bad it ended up in the trash can.

I was trying to do three things at once, never a good choice. I mixed up the Nutty Orange Wheat bread first. My plan was to enter it in one category for the Bakefest, and then enter Multi-Grain Bread in another category. I also had my Cherry Berry Pie in the works.

You've heard the old adage: Too many cooks spoil the soup. Well, I have a new one: Attempting too many recipes at once is an invitation to disaster.

I had kneaded the bread on a cutting board on the dining room table. In my zealous kneading, I guess I dislodged the table pad a little further than I realized.

When I put the second bowl on the table to rise, I came back in the kitchen. Suddenly, CRASH! I really didn't know what had happened until I rounded the corner and saw my catastrophe. There was so much glass, I thought both bowls had ended up on the floor.

Thankfully, one survived.

It was a sad day. Those glass bowls are my favorites to use for the rising process for bread dough. I was glad one survived my kitchen mishap.

The Multi-Grain Bread dough had landed on a dining room chair, right side up, its glass bowl still intact and the tea towel still covering it. It was a small miracle amidst the disaster.

I let it rise and then shaped it. I've mentioned before that shaping bread into loaves is not exactly my best kitchen skill. I think I have a mental block after years of white ribbons as a Pratt County 4-Her.

So I had a Stafford lady demonstrate the fine art of shaping loaves to my 4-H kids this summer. She bakes bread every single week.

After this session, one of my 4-Hers won the champion ribbon in the intermediate division at this year's fair. She then made four more loaves for the 4-H premium auction, all of which looked better than anything I have ever shaped.

Maybe it's like a second language. If you learn a second language - or the art of bread shaping - in your youth, it "takes" a little more quickly.

Randy would say I need to practice a little more. (I think there's an ulterior motive to that advice!)

Even with some expert instruction, my loaves didn't turn out perfect enough to enter in the bakefest.

Yes, there were few enough entries that I would have placed. But I know how they are supposed to look. This isn't it.

Even though they leave a lot to be desired in the "looks" department, they were very tasty as breakfast toast.

Didn't your mother tell you? Looks are not everything.

A little butter on freshly toasted homemade bread ... that just might be priceless.

Here are the recipes. My advice for you: Don't try to make them both at once. Enjoy!

Multi-Grain Bread
1 cup water
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup oats (old-fashioned or quick-cooking, I used quick cooking)
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup unprocessed bran
5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 pkg. rapid rise yeast
2 tsp. salt
2 eggs (divided - only one needed if one not used for topping)
Additional wheat germ or oats for topping (opt.)

Heat water, yogurt and oil to simmering. Stir in oats, wheat germ and bran. Set aside until cooled to very warm (120 to 130 degrees), about 30 minutes.

In large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, brown sugar, undissolved yeast and salt. Add cooled bran mixture; blend well. Stir in 1 egg and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cover; let rest on floured surface 10 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Roll each half to 12- by 7-inch rectangle. Beginning at short end of each, roll up tightly as for jelly roll. Pinch seams and ends to seal. Place, seam side down, in two greased 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Optional: With sharp knife, make 3 diagonal slashes (1/4inch deep) on each loaf. Lightly beat remaining egg; brush on loaves. Sprinkle with wheat germ or oats.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Remove from pans; let cool on wire racks.

Makes 2 loaves.

A recipe note: You can purchase both
wheat germ and unprocessed bran at Glenn's Bulk Foods just west of Hutchinson for a fraction of what it costs for the same products from grocery store shelves. If you don't live near there, try a bulk food store in your community.

Nutty Orange Wheat Bread

3 cups whole wheat Hudson Cream Flour
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose Hudson Cream Flour
2 pkg. yeast
1 tbsp. grated orange peel
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, toasted

In large bowl, combine 3 cups whole wheat flour, yeast, orange peel and salt. Heat milk, water, honey and oil until very warm (120 to 130 degrees). Gradually add to dry ingredients; beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Let sit 5 minutes for whole wheat flour to absorb liquid. Change to dough hook. After sitting, add toasted walnuts and enough all-purpose flour to a make a soft and satiny dough. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 30 to 45 minutes. Punch dough down. Remove dough. Using about 600 grams of dough, roll into rectangle and then roll as for jelly roll, forming a loaf. Put in a greased 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Repeat for remaining dough. Makes 2 loaves.

Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 30 to 45 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until done, covering with foil the last 10 minutes to prevent excess browning. Remove from pans; cool on wire rack.

This bread is great toasted for breakfast. (Yes, we have had it before. We just didn't get it this time after the kitchen debacle!)