If I could choose what I really wanted to be doing today, it would be baking a birthday cake for my husband.  Sometimes he would pick the kind he wanted; at other times, he would tell me to surprise him.  When asked, that is what he said eight years ago, “Surprise me.”  Little did I realize my selection would be the last birthday cake I ever made for him.  Thankfully, he was delighted with the caramel cream cake I prepared, claiming that it was even better than the Italian cream cake he loved so much.  Bob is now in a place where birthdays don’t matter anymore; in view of eternity, they aren’t even a blip on the radar.

I have been in a reflective state this morning, thinking about the man I married.  I can’t help but thank the Lord for the mate that He provided for me.  My childhood was filled with a lot of instability and emotional roller coasters.  Bob was on the opposite end of the spectrum.  He was very level-headed and always worked to provide for his family.  Although there were times his seeming passivity made me furious, his refusal to participate in a shouting match served as a teaching tool for me.  It took a long time to sink in, but I finally began to realize that life didn’t have to be lived the way it was when I was growing up.  If Bob did manage to lose his temper, he didn’t take it out on our children or me.

Another thing I learned from my husband: some things just happen, and I have to deal with it and go on from there.  I don’t need to find someone to blame.  Past circumstances cannot be changed; they are over and done with.  I shouldn’t assign a motive to another person’s actions, because I don’t know what it is unless that person shares it with me.  Bob didn’t feel the need to know the “why,” he dealt with the “what” and went on about his life.

One of the hardest things I have faced is losing the stable influence that Bob gave to my life.  Thankfully, I had already learned a lot from him when he graduated to Heaven.  I watched him face a painful disease with courage and the strength poured into him from his Heavenly Father.  It also helped when I was diagnosed with thyroid problems, and medication addressed my “I-feel-like-I-am-coming-out-of-my-skin” issues.  Not only that, but my calmer demeanor gave me the ability to care for my husband through his cancer battle without falling apart emotionally.  The Lord knew I would need my own stability to face watching Bob lose his battle with multiple myeloma.

When I sat down to write this column, I did not intend to focus on my late husband.  However, when I started typing, my heart overcame my head.  Maybe someone else needs to be reassured that grief is a process, not something one just “gets over.” 

On a different note, I have something I do need to “get over.”  I had a friend (who sometimes calls himself “Cletus’) over for dinner recently.  He was a guinea pig for some new recipes I was trying; two for this week and two for next.  One of them was Yeast Corn Bread, which I baked in my bread machine.  The yellow cornmeal in my possession was a medium-grind, but I thought it would be fine to use it.  The bread was wonderfully good; however, the cornmeal made it gritty.  So gritty, in fact, that a piece of it cut into the roof of my mouth, causing quite a bit of bleeding.  This was not how I would have chosen to entertain a guest!  We decided to throw out the rest of the bread, even though it was delicious.  My advice: use finely ground yellow cornmeal if you try this recipe!

I was glad that the other bread I tried more than made up for the cornbread fiasco.  Pull-Apart Maple Wheat Bread was amazing!  It is sweetened with maple syrup and contains cinnamon as well.  I am giving directions to make it in a bread machine along with the original recipe.

January is Bread Machine month, plus Wheat Bread Month.  These two recipes fit those themes nicely!

Yeast Corn Bread Loaf

1 packaged (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder

3 tablespoons butter, softened

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

Place ingredients in bread machine in order recommended by manufacturer.  Use “basic” bread selection for 1-1/2-pound loaf. 

Want to bake it in the oven?  Choose “dough only” cycle.  Remove from machine after cycle is completed.  Shape into loaf.  Place in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.  Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled; about 30 minutes.  Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from pan to wire rack to cool.  Yield: 1 loaf.

Pull-Apart Maple Wheat Bread

1-1/4 cups water

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 packages dry yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup raisins (optional)

3 to 3-1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Combine water, syrup, and oil in a small saucepan; heat until very warm (120 to 130 degrees F).  Set aside.

Combine all-purpose flour, yeast, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl; stir in syrup mixture and eggs, mixing well.  Stir in raisins (if desired) and enough whole wheat flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes).  Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts, 1 hour.

Punch down dough; divide into 20 pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball.  Place 10 balls, in rows of 5, in each of 2 greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans.  Brush each loaf with melted butter.  Cover; let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped.  Remove loaves from pans; cool thoroughly on wire racks.  Yield: 2 loaves.

For bread machine, use the following ingredients:

2/3 cup water

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg plus 1 egg white, beaten

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour

3-1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

Place in bread machine pan in order recommended by manufacturer.  Use a sweet bread setting to bake in the machine, or select “dough” cycle and follow above instructions to prepare and bake loaves, substituting  8-1/2-by- 4-1/2-by-2-1/2 inch pans for the larger ones.  Reduce baking time to 25 minutes, checking loaves after 20 minutes.