Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Southern Hospitality

So far one of the best things about living in suburbia, besides the big house that allows us to deal with Landon's evil and glacially descending molars without fear of the people in our building kicking us out in the middle of the night, is the friendly neighbors. We had heard this neighborhood was full of young families, block parties, and bunko nights, and we're pleased to report that all the talk is true.

As you know we closed on the house in April but didn't move in until early June. I asked friends to drop by to check on it and water the yard every week or so, and one day while they were trying to resuscitate our fried grass, our neighbor "John" (not his real name, not that it would probably matter given that his real name is about as generic as John) came over, introduced himself, and offered to do the watering for them. John watered our yard for 6 weeks until we finally met him, his lovely wife "Sarah", and their two sons. Since then we have relied on John to move our trash cans out for collection on the Fridays we're gone (why must our trash day be Friday? When you go out of town, Friday is often included in the travel plans, and when you only get one trash day a week and you are only allotted one trash can, you really cannot miss a day!), and then when we got back from the lake house around 11 Saturday night we noticed that our lawn was freshly cut and trimmed! John knew I had the Bar Exam last week and when he saw JP leave town and our lawn looking a little ragged, he cut ours along with his - in the 100+ degree heat, I might add.

I decided the lawn mowing deserved more than just effusive thanks, and given our limited budget we couldn't get them a gift card to a local restaurant or anything like that, so I rolled up my sleeves, put on an apron, and baked. From scratch. They have no idea how special I must think they are. The culinary delight I whipped up isn't the fanciest of treats, but it is incredibly tasty and a little different from the ordinary breakfast bread. It is my mom's recipe and she used to make it for our teachers for teacher appreciation day (since we also grew up on a budget). Everyone loves it and should you find yourself with a neighbor deserving of glazed goodness, or you just want something tasty to eat for breakfast that is as delicious as a donut but feels much healthier (though, looking at the ingredients, it's probably not), I have included the recipe below.

And to top off their wonderfulness, Sarah kept talking about how much she missed having her babies crawl all over the house (her youngest is 7, maybe your memories improve over time...) and offered several times to babysit. My firm is hosting an end of summer dinner tomorrow night and almost all our usual sitters are invited (fellow summer associates from last year), my sister is out of town, and our other friends are sick or at the Olympics, so JP was going to stay behind. This would normally not be a big deal and he'd look forward to a night of Economist reading and no lawyer-talk, but this restaurant is our absolute favorite in Austin. It's where we celebrated all our birthdays in college, where we got engaged, where I met his parents for the first time (though that last memory is less than pleasant and only reinforces how delicious this place is because we continue to love it so much), anyway, he really wanted to go. When she told me again she would love to watch him, I offered up our Wednesday dilemma and she enthusiastically agreed to be at our front door at 6. I'm going to have to bake more bread.

POPPY SEED BREAD WITH ORANGE GLAZE

Bread Ingredients

3 c flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ tsp almond flavoring
1 ½ tsp butter flavoring
1 ½ cups sugar
2 T. poppy seeds
1 ½ tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 1/8 c oil

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Mix all ingredients for bread together and pour in to 2 or 3 loaf pans, greased and floured. Bake for 45-60 min.
3. Make Orange Glaze (recipe below) during last few minutes while bread cooks.
3. Remove pans from oven and liberally poke holes in warm bread. Pour glaze over the top while it is still in the pan.
4. Let sit at least 15 minutes and remove.

Orange Glaze
¾ c. sugar
¼ c. orange juice
½ tsp. butter flavoring
½ tsp. almond flavoring
½ tsp. vanilla flavoring

Mix orange juice and sugar over low heat in small pan until sugar dissolves, then add flavorings.

18 comments:

  1. My mom made something very similar for special occasions when I was growing up! It's delicious! Your neighborhood sounds so wonderful. Enjoy a well deserved evening out.

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  2. Good neighbors are a wonderful thing to have. Our next door neighbor is named John and when we went to Florida for 9 days he checked our mail, let the dog in and out, fed the dog, and kept an eye on the house. Sounds like your neighbors are really going above and beyond. You are very lucky.

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  3. Bengali Chick8/5/08, 6:53 PM

    Awwww.. that is sooo freaking sweet. I loved this post. I don't think I even know my neigbors, sad:(

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  4. The bread is definitely going on my list--looks great.

    And good neighbors are the best. The only reason my mom pulled the flier on my house (I was busy studying for the bar and asked her to narrow down my choices) was because she knew the neighbors. They were great, but unfortunately moved last summer. I still miss them!

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  5. That's so fantastic. I cannot wait to live in a neighborhood like that. One more year until we buy a house...

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  6. What an awesome neighbor! Yay. :)

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  7. What a great neigbourhood, but what on earth is a Bunko night?

    It conjures images of people staying over in bunkrooms? Surely not! Barbeque?

    When the recipe says mix - do you mix the dry ingredients together and then add the liquids? No kneading required? It looks yummy!

    And, FTR, I would much prefer being given home-baking as a thank-you gift than a gift card - it's nicer as it doesn't put a monetary value on gratitude.

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  8. This sounds wonderful...I'll be giving it a shot this weekend!

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  9. RH - bunko is a mindless little dice game that you play with snacks, gossip, and a lot of wine. I have many memories growing up of my mom and all the neighborhood women chatting and laughing and screaming downstairs while my siblings and I stayed upstairs in the game room wondering what on earth bunko was all about :)

    And as for the ingredients - I throw them all in a bowl in the order listed (so I don't miss any) and then use an electric mixer until well blended. I don't think you can do it wrong.

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  10. wow- yay for awesome neighbors! That recipe sounds SO delicious. I might just try to make it this weekend!

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  11. That is exactly why I love where I live. The people. It's so unlike a 'city', not that it is a city, but we're not 'hick' either! Southern hospitality, it goes a long way!

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  12. There's "Northern Hospitality" too...it just comes at you fast and furious and whether you like it or not!

    We couldn't have done much without our extensive neighborhood family who have sat for our babies, kids, watched our house, cooked meals, fixed plumbing, shared a laugh, a shoulder to cry and many, many libations!

    Glad that the move is going well and that your neighborhood so helpful and friendly. When you have a young one, it helps to have support everywhere!

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  13. Hey LL!

    One more question on that yummy sounding bread... I may make it this weekend for house guests. When do you pour on the glaze?

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  14. Sounds delish. Is "butter flavoring" the same thing as butter??

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  15. Hello anonymouses!

    To Anonymous #1, you put the glaze on right when the bread comes out of the oven (or if you didn't make it yet, you have time to whip it up after you take the bread out, it's just important to pour it over while the bread is still warm). The glaze only takes about a minute to make.

    To Anonymous #2, butter flavoring is definitely not the same as butter. It's in the baking aisle right by the vanilla flavoring, almond flavoring, and all those other little glass bottles. I use the "Adam's" brand but I know there are others. I've only ever needed it for this recipe, but it's cheap and once you have it, you have an excuse to keep making more bread!

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  16. I'm glad it sounds like everything is going so well for you guys. You deserve it!

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  17. Thanks for posting that recipe...It sounds great, and I think I'll try it out this weekend. :)

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  18. Geez that bread sounds awesome! Just hope no one has any drug tests afterwards. ;)

    And can I move into your neighborhood? We used to have great neighbors until we moved across town. Three years later and we still barely know anyone.

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