Yep, everything is just fine. We're just easing back into our routine after a week on the road in Oklahoma visiting family. We had a great time seeing babies, cousins, parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and, of course, that flat landscape dotted with oak trees and oil pumpers.
While we were away, we needed someone to check in on our chickens. Our three hens just started laying eggs a few weeks ago, so while they don't need their feed and water refilled every day, we did need someone to collect eggs. Our neighbors Mike and Diane offered to help, and I readily accepted. While they don't have chickens, they hardly think it's a novelty raising hens. They've lived on a farm, grew up with livestock and have children whose own hens provide most of the eggs they eat. They live in a house that's been in their family for more than 60 years, and they keep close tabs on what goes on in our little corner of the world.
Just before leaving and upon returning, we visited them several times, and Jasper was introduced to their fish aquarium and allowed to play with dolls in their living room. These grandparents know how to treat a little boy, and Jasper's no dummy when it comes to people doting on him. The last time we stopped by, he walked in like he owned the place.
As a thank you, I baked them a loaf of Whole Wheat and Molasses Quick Bread. It's from Mark Bittman, also known as The Minimalist, cookbook author and New York Times columnists. His recipes are always great, and I was introduced to this one by my friend Erin.
This bread is a cousin to that beer bread I love in that it is so easy to make that you think surely you must be missing a step. The molasses gives this bread a subtle sweetness, and the whole wheat flour and corn meal make it a dense loaf, perfect for thick slices.
Erin brought some to my house for dinner recently, and I toasted the leftovers the next morning. While I loved the bread the night before with just a smidge of butter, it was even better warmed with melting butter and a spread of raspberry jam made the week before by my neighbor Mike.
The Minimalist's Quick Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread
By Mark Bittman
1 hour 15 minutes
* Oil or butter for greasing pan
* 1 2/3 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt, or 1 1/2 cups milk and 2
tablespoons white vinegar (see Step 2)
* 2 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces) whole wheat flour
* 1/2 cup cornmeal
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 cup molasses
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-by-4-inch or 9-by 5-inch
loaf pan, preferably nonstick.
2. If using buttermilk or yogurt, ignore this step. Make soured milk:
warm milk gently -- 1 minute in the microwave is sufficient, just
enough to take the chill off -- and add vinegar. Set aside.
3. Mix together dry ingredients. Stir molasses into buttermilk,
yogurt or soured milk. Stir liquid into dry ingredients (just enough
to combine) then pour into loaf pan. Bake until firm and a toothpick
inserted into center comes out clean, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on a
rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
Lighter Whole Wheat Quick Bread: Use 11/2 cups whole wheat and
11/2 cups all-purpose flour; omit cornmeal. Substitute honey for
molasses. Beat 1 egg into wet ingredients in Step 3. Proceed with