Sunday, December 26, 2010

Under Pressure!

I can't wait to try out my new Pressure Cooker! Apparently Mom and Dad do pay attention to my requests and that large box that came from Amazon was indeed containing my very own shiny new pressure canner.

Imagine that. They put tons of warnings on these things. Do not operate until you have read instructions. I guess I better get on that.

My mother also added to my sometimes crazy dressing skills by buying me a pair of corduroy leggings. Purple and a little too scary to actually wear in public. We'll just have to keep those at home. My favorite part is the faux zipper and front pockets. But the back pockets are real!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Surprise!

Giving is always more fun than receiving. Tara and I, well mostly Tara, decided that it was about time for our mother to receive a cute little dog all for her own. We've been talking about it for years so Tara went and adopted an adorable little dog for a surprise Christmas present. We did good, Mom had no idea, and Dad did not freak out either. The surprise went down like this......

Oh what's this leash for?

My very own doggy!

 We're already besties!

What's not to love?

Snyder is a Poodle/Bichon mix, non-shedding, curly-haired, cutie. He's very curious, potty-trained, quiet, and well-mannered. He's quite perfect for Mother. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


What a day is has been! It is a really good thing that I so enjoy being around other people and that I feed off the energy of others. Today has been one of those days. Filled with a heavy heart, a joyful heart, an excited spirit, and a thankful soul I made my way through one packed day of socialization. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest and I intend to make the completion of this day a restful one. A outline of events:

6:15 a.m. Alarm clock goes off
6:32 a.m. Amanda actually gets out of bed and wanders downstairs
6:48 a.m. Complete putting together an enchilada crock-pot casserole for after-church lunch
7:14 a.m. Get dressed and ready for a successful Sunday
8:00 a.m. Rush out of the house with my computer, book, bible, worship folder, crock-pot, apple, banana
8:15 a.m. Drop off crock-pot in Abilene, head to church
8:38 a.m. Run through worship practice
9:18 a.m. Spill my guts once again of my life uncertainty in petition for prayer
9:35 a.m. Begin discussion of Crazy Love book in Sunday School, spill my guts once again of the desire to live radical life displaying the love of Christ
10:40 a.m. Church service
12:15 p.m. Enjoy fabulous lunch with community group socialization spilling my heart, again, regarding my life options and possibilities of actually living the radical life of Jesus
3:14 p.m. Depart Abilene
3:32 p.m. Arrive home, pack away leftover casserole, start preparing hummus dip for second social outing
4:02 p.m. Arrive at neighbors' house for Neighborhood Holiday Party
7:02 p.m. Depart from the neighbors' house, head for home.
8:11 p.m. Chat with long lost childhood friend via telephone
9:25 p.m. Stand in awe of life's blessings: friends, neighbors, community and really great Christmas snacks!

Praise the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The grand finale of my days in the bakery science lab went down fabulously. During our final lab last week we made some scrumptious product. It was a pizza lab so to go along with lots and lots of cheese pizza we added another similar product, focaccia. That's pronounced \fō-ˈkä-ch(ē-)ə\ or foh-kah-sha. Basically focaccia is an Italian flatbread, typically made with herbs and olive oil. We went a little gourmet and added some additional fabulous toppings.

Check out our green apple, blue cheese, toasted walnut focaccia or perhaps the tomato, basil, asiago cheese focaccia.

Delightful, simply delightful. Focaccia is best warm from the oven, possibly with a nice glass of wine. Enjoy it later as a sandwich, simply slice that beauty in half and stuff with your favorite sandwich eatings.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Standing in Awe

For the third time in my life I am reading the book Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. This third time is different because I am reading it in community with my Sunday school group at church. I am very excited to see where God will take this lesson and how He will change each and every person in the group through this study. We just started so in the beginning we are taking a closer look at who God is and how the love of Christ is so different from what we, as Americans, typically see. The lives we are living are simply not as bold and radical as the life of Jesus and therefore, we're missing something. The core of the problem as Chan describes is our inaccurate view of God. Romans 1:20 says, For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. We are without excuse; God is being displayed all around us. I'd like to think that seeing God in creation is easy for me because I already adore time spent in nature, but to be honest I simply do not stand in awe of the invisible God enough. Standing in awe is the simplest honor we can do for our creator.

Check out this fabulous video to get just a little picture of how majestic and powerful our creator is. It definitely helps to put our world in a little perspective.

R.C. Sprouls writes, "Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God."

So today I am trying to be intentional in observing the awe factor of God. As I went for a jog earlier, I was blown away, almost literally by the power of the wind. It is an unseasonably warm day and I am trying to get in as much outdoor exercise before tomorrow when the cold weather is supposed to arrive. Anyway, the south wind was so strong as I was trying to pick my feet up and move that I decided to take the moment and stand in awe. As I held my arms out in the wind, I kinda felt like I was on the titanic or perhaps I was ready for take-off if I were a kite. Then I was trying to imagine if this wind feels strong, how strong must the speed of the earth's rotations feel if I were out there in outer space holding my hands out. I'm not sure that makes any sense, but it was an awe moment. I stood in awe as I watched the wind move the native prairie grass against the blue puffy cloud filled sky.

How have you stood in awe?

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:4-7

On Wednesday nights I have the amazing opportunity to hang out with some of the coolest kids in the neighborhood. I've been helping with Kids Zone which goes on at Zion BIC and have been entirely entertained by the kids there. This month we've been focusing on joy and our memory verse has been Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! It has been so great to hear those little voices scream this verse out. We've talked about being joyful no matter what situation we are in and although I'm not entirely certain they understand this concept it has been quite timely for me. Tonight as I look back to that verse I am amazed at how much I really need to focus on that entire section of truth. 

I mentioned that after next week I will no longer be working in the bakery lab at KSU. Although this was definitely a difficult decision I knew that it was one I had to make. As much as I enjoy hanging out with college students, eating lots of great baked goods, and generally having a no-stress job, it is simply not something I wanted to do long term. I kinda needed the push out the door to make me move on to bigger and better things. Obviously, I have not figured out exactly what those things are yet, but as Paul speaks to the Philippians, I must be patient. With prayer and petition, I am trusting that God will show me the next move.

Some of you may have noticed my new third tab on the blog. This is my new attempt to continue doing what I love, baking, in a manner which may generate some income. A little less risky than opening a bakery retail store, I hope to start generating some customers that will be willing to purchase my baked goods. Actually, I'm not limiting this to baked goods, I love all food and am thinking about incorporating catering/party hosting events. I'm not sold on the name "Quality Tastes" either, so if you have a suggestion for this new venture, please let me know. When I was younger and dreamed of my own bakery I used to always think I'd name it Panda's Pastries. However, that does not include all the greatness of artisan bread, local vegetables, and such that I love. So seriously thoughts, comments, ideas?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's Official

I've been handed my very last stack of Bakery Science Lab Reports to grade.
I have been replaced.
I have no more crutch in the working world.
I really need to figure out what I'm doing with my life.
I baked some pretty decent artisan bread all by myself.

Mmm. Life is great!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Harvest

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

This Thanksgiving I felt like a real pilgrim. So very thankful for the bountiful harvest and the warm autumn season that has allowed me to continue harvesting for so long. Thankful for bell peppers that I had harvested a couple weeks ago to go along with the corn that I had frozen from summertime.

Thankful for root and tuber veggies. Some from my fall planting that actually produced enough to harvest. 

Thankful for swiss chard still kicking it.

Oh and thankful for the free range turkey, even if it did come from California. 

Thankful for the bounty of choices and big plates to put it on.

Thankful for my advisor, boss, and friend that made this pecan pie. Retail value = $50. Even more thankful for his wife that keeps him humble.

Such a great day spent with my family and friends. Always worth the effort and time in the kitchen for a great meal, even with frozen bread!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Today my father and I went to a sustainable agriculture conference put on by the Kansas Rural Center.
Connecting Cows, Carbon, and Carrots. Making Sense of Our Food Future.

I was actually quite impressed with the conference and although not all of it was worth my time it was encouraging to know that there is a large group of Kansas agricultural producers that get it. They get the fact that commodity agriculture they way we know it right now is not sustainable and if production continues the way the majority does today we are in for a great deal of trouble. Our finances, our environment, our political sphere all play a huge role in this. With my recent travels and experience working on small organic farms in other parts of the country I just thought that Kansas was missing the big picture. We live in the land of plenty and it is often difficult to see past our own pasture gates; however, Kansans are too thinking about the future.

I went to a couple of different workshops, one focusing on school and community gardens. This link between children growing food, being physically active, eating healthier, and overall leading a higher quality of life is so evident! I would love to be able to take part in this growing educational tool in my area. I also heard from a couple in Lawrence that have recently purchased land together and are starting several projects as a joint effort. It makes so much sense for two individual farmers that both need more space to purchase land together, own one tractor together instead of two, share work, and work together to do what they love. Collaboration people! My father was pretty excited to learn more about putting up hoop houses and starting a grass-fed beef production. Add that to the hundreds of articles he's read and the numerous speakers he's already heard about such topics. I told him he should quit wasting time gaining more information and just do it. So all in all, a great day hearing from other producers, local food enthusiasts, and even those political EPA people talking about climate change. There is hope for Kansas agriculture!

I thought I would share just a few kitchen productions from my week. I decided to conduct an experiment and make that green tomato relish with the spare tomatoes I accumulated right before the freeze. It was actually quite tasty and the kids in bake lab ate it up! I guess next year I shall have to pick more of them at the end of the season. After adding sugar and vinegar to the mixture one cannot tell the difference between green tomato relish and cucumber relish.

Oh and just a few more, 10 cups, of frozen pumpkin in the freezer.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010


It was a great day in the Bake Lab! 
Four different breads all made with pre-ferments = lots of quality flavor. 
Because it was such a special day, I went to google to find a few quality quotes.

My favorite of the day included a Multigrain artisan bread. Complete with three different flours and four different grains/seeds.

Right after final shaping.

Ready for the oven.
Finished product.

A little bit of whole wheat goodness. See above quote #3.

Pretty Prairie Paesano

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin Preservation

All I want for Christmas is a pressure cooker. We have three freezers in this house, two attached to refrigerators and one deep freeze. They are all full and the majority of the contents are vegetables. It's been a bountiful year and for this I am very thankful, but I could remedy part of this full freezer problem if only I had a pressure cooker to preserve more of the bounty. Until then, I shall continue cooking and eating.

This fall I had fun at the pumpkin patch picking one of each different kind of pumpkin for my decorating and culinary delight.
After serving their decorating purposes, they are now ready for my culinary purposes. Must cook and freeze them for really great pumpkin treats all year long.

Step one: Cut open pumpkins and remove the insides.

Step two: Place open side down on a baking sheet and slide into the oven.

Roast those suckers until they are nice and soft. I added a bit of water to the pan to help with a bit of steaming action and to keep them from burning on the pan.

See how the skin just bubbles up as the flesh becomes nice and soft and begins to cave in?
Just peel away the skin and save the super nutritious flesh. 

Mashed up and packed away into freezer containers. Properly labeled and dated and into the deep freeze they go!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's been a while..

  1. Since I last blogged. Our rural route internet service decided to stop working for about a week. Then I proceeded to contract the common cold and was not really feeling like talking about life, only felt like sleeping. Then I decided maybe I'd just stop spending so much time talking about myself, but then again I remembered I kinda like hearing other people respond. 
  2. Since I ate 3 donuts in two days. This would be lab number 10: Functionality of Flour in Yeast Doughnuts. Life is rough frying up the dough for educational purposes. I'm really glad I didn't eat 7 in one lab like a student did today.
  3. Since I last ate bacon. Yes, the students really did make maple glazed bacon donuts. Not gonna lie, I had to try it. It was quite tasty.
  4. Since I've exercised. Sickness = zero motivation to move more than absolutely necessary. Even more rough to get back in the routine of exercising after taking a good 10 days off.
  5. Since I wore a stocking cap. Definitely got one out last weekend and anticipate using another this weekend. I'm ready for cold weather outside, winter jackets, many scarves and hats. Now if only I had somebody to snuggle with on a cold evening. Just keep praying, just keep praying.
  6. Since I thanked my God for all His blessings on my life. Even though I struggle with direction and purpose with where I am at, I know that He is faithful and good!

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Sunny cookies

    Yesterday I was reminded of how cool my job is and just how fortunate I am to work in such a facility where experimenting is part of the job and mess-ups are usually still eaten. You see recently we acquired a very nice sized box that had served as a shipping cooler space so it was already conveniently lined with reflecting insulation. As soon as I saw it I knew that it could serve as another useful item. I could either make a Halloween costume out of it, maybe be a microwave, or I could make it into a sun/solar oven. How convenient that I work in the bake lab and we happen to have items on hand to experiment with on a normal basis. I opted to go with the second option. 

    This would be my box with conveniently insulated sides. They were already lined with a reflector sheet so I simply had to fill in the gaps with some aluminum foil. I also covered the top with plastic wrap to create the oven box. I stuck a black t-shirt in the bottom of the box to attract the heat and put a simply cake pan down there with my three cookies. I covered the pan of cookies just as another way to trap additional heat. A few books under the box tilt it toward the sun.

    See my cookies down in there? By now, after only about 10 minutes in the box I have already realized a few flaws. The cookies are sliding down the pan. Duh. The pan on the bottom should be level so I don't end up with a blob of cookie dough on the bottom of the slope. After about another 30 minutes I realize that it's simply too windy and my box doesn't weigh enough as it blows over and my cookies are now definitely in a blob on one side of the pan. After I rearrange my box and pan and now weight inside the box a few too many times I realize that the plastic wrap on top keeping the heat in is simply not going to cut it. I need an actual piece of clear plastic or glass, something a little more substantial for a proper seal and heat trapper. I think I had to move the box about 5 times during the course of the 4 hours it took to half bake a cookie due to the rapidly moving sun and the location I chose. 

    At about 3:30pm I realize there is not enough sun left in the sky to do anything more for my baking action so I  abandon oven action. My cookies look fairly normal, still kinda a blob. Because it is late October and the sun is so low in the sky only about half of the cookie pan was actually in direct sunlight. Another thing I learned was my box was too deep to allow proper sun and it was simply too much space to heat up. A lot of wasted space is unnecessary. It did manage to get up to 218 degrees in there at one point. I believe a properly designed sun oven should get to normal baking temps though.

    Mmm. Grandma's Old Fashioned Molasses cookies, my favorite. Not sure if you can tell but half the pan, the part in the direct sun was definitely done and crunchy. The other half that never made it into the direct sun was a little under baked and doughy. Good thing experimenting is encouraged in my workplace and even the rejects get eaten by bake lab participants!

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Stop and Look Around

     Once again I am amazed by the moments I witness while in the middle of creation. Take for example my experience last week while outside. I was in the garden, spending a few moments checking out the plants, picking some produce and I notice a rabbit running around. My presence has obviously alerted the animal, however, this animal is inside the fence and cannot seem to get out. As I walk towards the house I move into the yard at just the right moment to watch my cat pounce on the rabbit as it is trapped against the fence. We're talking about a cat only a small amount larger than the rabbit catching and dragging off a rabbit. I think she thought I might take her prize away because she quickly dragged the animal up to the side of the house and I see her attempt to pull it under the porch. Much to her dismay this is not possible and she sits while I watch.

    Meanwhile it dawns on me why on occasion it smells like decomposing animal under our porch. Our amazing cat likes to capture animals, drag them under the porch, and leave them there to decompose. Gross, I decide I must prevent this from happening again. Now the cat has decided to drag the rabbit over the porch and I think that I can shoe her out the gate on the other side, no problem. Much to my dismay, I have forgotten that on the other side of the deck there is no guard fence and she pulls her prize under the porch to do her business. I just hope she ate the whole thing. 

    Check out my prized purple bell pepper. This is the prettiest one I have harvested. 

    There are no stop signs at my house, but Sunday was a fabulous day for taking pictures in Abilene, Kansas.