Thursday, January 16, 2014

Green boat

There's a pretty notable movement to have a green boat these days. Solar powered, wind powered, electric...but I would like to take the meaning of green boat in another completely different direction.

My daughter recently read an article about how NASA was using plants to detox the space station from chemicals and mold. Number one on the list was English Ivy. While shopping for something totally unrelated a few days later I happened on a reduced rack of small 4" potted plants and picked one up as an experiment. I was skeptical, I admit, as a boat is so full of mold potential even if there aren't any leaks, just due to the amount of condensation present. I was also concerned about the wide temperature swing in the boat, but the tag on the plant assured me that it could withstand a 40° to 95° range. On our home lake that would encompass about 2 months of the year, but we were preparing to leave to go cruising and were determined to stay well within that range.

I put it in a nice spot on a medium light shelf above my closet next to a port, and went home for the weekend. When we came back the following weekend the plant was nearly dead. I wasn't surprised, but disappointed. When we went back to the city at the end of the weekend I forgot to take the plant home with me and on returning the next weekend expected to find it completely dead. To my surprise, there were several small, new green leaves on one of its stalks. The only thing I can attribute it to is that there was so much mold in the boat that it shocked and took a bit of time to adjust. Whatever the reason, the plant is doing well and adds an element of color to the interior of the boat that does wonders for it. It was a very well spent $1.74.

By the way, when my daughter came to visit she promptly named the plant Starbuck after the chief mate in Moby Dick, but I'm thinking these days his namesake is more likely the Starbuck of Battlestar Gallactica fame since he's endured some real trials and yet continues to survive with a bit of feistiness. He's become a qualified crew member aboard Kintala. So the next time you're near  a clearance rack of 4" potted plants, see if one doesn't call out and tell you he wants to go cruising.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Vienna Snack Loaves

This recipe is one of my absolute favorites. It's a versatile boat bread recipe that can be shaped into 2 large italian style loaves, 3 medium everyday cut bread with butter and cheese loaves, 4 large hoagie buns, or 8 sandwich rolls. I usually make a half recipe, which is what follows, mostly because if you're in warm weather the bread will mold before you can eat it all if you do a whole recipe. You can double it though if you have fridge space, or you're having company, or you just feel like being nice by delivering a warm loaf to someone. The recipe comes out of my favorite bread cookbook, The Red Star Centennial Bread Sampler, which is out of print but if you ever find it at a used bookstore I highly recommend you pick it up. Mine is heavily taped up from all the years of use.


2-3/4 to 3 cups bread flour
1 package instant yeast
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp slt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbl water
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbl butter


In a large mixing bowl stir together1-1/4 cups of the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Set aside.

 Heat water, milk and butter in a small saucepan until it reaches 120°. The butter does not need to melt. I've been using a trigger style infrared thermometer to test the liquid with, one that we bought to use on the engine but it works really great for bread as well.

Mix the heated liquids into the dry ingredients and beat for 3 minutes with either a hand mixer or a wooden spoon. It should get totally smooth and bubbles should begin to appear. I've been using a kitchen timer app on my phone that works pretty well.

Add enough of the rest of the flour in by hand to make a soft dough. It will be sticky as you work it with the spoon but should begin to take the shape of a ball and to clean off the sides of the bowl. Put a little flour onto your work surface and begin to knead the bread. Knead it for 5-8 minutes or until it gets elastic and smooth. If you have never kneaded bread you can watch my video and instructions in the Thin Crust Pizza Recipe for help. Clean your bowl and oil the inside of it. Put your ball of dough in the bowl and turn it over so the top is oiled. Cover the bowl with foil and then keep it somewhere warm and free of drafts until it doubles in bulk. You can make a warm space by turning on your oven for a few minutes and then turning it off and putting the bowl inside, or by setting it on a heating pad or a hot water bottle. It will take 30-60 minutes to double depending on the ambient temperature. It should look like this.

 After the dough has doubled, take your fist and punch it down in the middle. Then take the edges and fold them to the middle and work around until all the air bubbles are gone.
 Cut the dough into two pieces. Press one piece into a rectangle about ten inches long by 5 inches wide.
Start rolling the long edge toward you and press it into the remaining dough along the bottom ede of the roll. Try not to trap any air bubbles into the roll.
When it's all rolled up, turn it over and pinch the edge together.
 Place the pinched edge down on a square of parchment paper cut to fit your pan and sprinkled with cornmeal. Cut diagonal slits into the top with a sharp knife.
Take the other half of dough and cut it into 4 equal pieces. Press each piece out into a small rectangle and roll it toward you like the loaves. If you want longish rolls then stop there. If you want rounder rolls then take that mini loaf and begin to roll it from one end to the other, pinching as you go and sealing it like the loaf on the bottom.
 Grease the tops of the loaves and/or rolls with olive oil or cooking spray.
Put them in a warm place free of drafts until they're almost doubled in size. If you are not preheating your oven in order to save propane, then you want to start to bake them when they are a little less raised. They will finish raising as the oven preheats. This can take some experimenting on time so I suggest that the first time you make this recipe that you preheat your oven.

Bake them from 20-35 minutes, again depending on your oven. Cool completely before slicing or they will crush. This is a very tender, moist bread.

If you have troubles, know that yeast bread failures are usually a fault of one of these situations: your liquids are too hot and you have killed the yeast, you are using old yeast, you are using self-rising flour, or you have tried to raise the bread somewhere drafty. 

If you have any other difficulties please feel free to email me, svkintala att gmail dott com.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

French Breakfast Puffs

The key word in the title of this blog is "Comforts". The food on here is comfort food, pure and simple. Emotionally healthy, but diet food? Not so much. So there is the disclaimer. Now, on to breakfast this morning.

In my defense, it was cold on the boat. 43° outside, and 47° inside with no heater. Certainly not the vicious -20° wind chills my daughter eldest was experiencing in Iowa City, IA, but it called for some heat nonetheless. So rather than cold cereal, or even oatmeal, some sort of baked good was called for.

This recipe was given to me by my nephew years ago as part of a church youth group recipe book. I haven't made it in years due to our attempt to eat healthier, but I drew it out of the recipe stash today and simply refused to think about healthy and decided to focus on warm. Comfort food folks...

French Breakfast Puffs

3 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk

6 Tbl butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
3 tsp cinnamon

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in one bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add sugar. Cream again. Add eggs and blend till mixed.

These puffs are mixed using an alternating method. Add 1/3 of flour mixture and mix until dry ingredients are incorporated...

Then add 1/3 cup of the milk and mix well. Repeat, alternating flour and milk, mixing well in between.

Divide into 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until just turning golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

While puffs are baking, mix cinnamon and sugar and set aside. Melt butter.

Remove puffs from oven when done and transfer to wire rack. While still warm, roll tops in melted butter and then cinnamon sugar.

Serve warm.