Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
It was easy to assemble, simple to cook, and absolutely delicious to eat! The only downfall was the fact that the most important ingredient is one that pretty much cannot be local to me. If you live in the tropics, grow your own bananas and then give this a try!
The whole recipe serves 4, but I did half a recipe for the two of us and it was plenty of food.
1/4 cup milk
4 very ripe small bananas
1/4 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts (I used pecans since that's what I had in the pantry)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
8 slices egg bread (I used whole wheat)
4 T unsalted butter (I used half this amount with good results)
Beat eggs until frothy and then stir in the milk. Pour into a shallow bowl or pan that is larger than the bread slices you are using.
Mash bananas into a small bowl. Mix in nuts and nutmeg. Spread it evenly over half the bread slices leaving a 1/4 inch border uncovered on all edges. Top with the remaining bread slices and press down gently to seal.
Place sandwiches in egg mixture and turn until evenly saturated on both sides.
In a pan or griddle big enough to hold all sandwiches, melt half the butter over medium heat. Add the sandwiches and fry until the underside is golden brown. Add the remaining butter (broken into pieces) to the pan and flip the sandwiches over onto the newly melted butter. Fry until golden brown.
Serve hot, dusted with confectioners sugar if you like. Excellent with warm maple syrup!
Unfortunately, I didn't think to take photos. I'm planning on making this one again in the near future. When I do, I'll take pictures!
Monday, January 26, 2009
I ordered this book from Amazon because I was intrigued by the title. I didn't even bother to search for reviews, or experiences or anything. I took a risk and it panned out - big time.
And of course, I was highly skeptical. I mean, everyone and their brother told me how easy it was to make yogurt and we all know how that turned out for me, right? I even managed to screw up the supposedly super easy NYTimes version of the 'no-knead bread'. So an entire book (and as it turns out, an entire internet worth of people) going on and on about how easy this bread making process was, just didn't sway me. I know that I'm fully capable of screwing it up, so I reserved judgement.
I also took another stupid risk. I attempted my first loaf when we had company coming for dinner. Our friends were bringing lasagna and salad, so I figured that the perfect accompaniment would be home baked crusty bread. Thank the maker that it worked or I was in for some major excuse making!
Basically, you mix flour, water, yeast and salt in a big storage container. You let it rise for 2 hours (I put it in the oven with only the light bulb on since my house is so cold). Then you put the container in the fridge. When it's time to make bread, you cut off a piece of dough, shape the loaf (which takes all of 30 seconds), let it sit for 40 minutes and then bake it. Voila! You think I'm kidding...but I'm not. My bread turned out looking exactly like the cover and it was yummy. Tender but crusty crust, fully cooked but not the least bit dry interior. And the best part is that I have enough dough in my fridge (well, in my case, in the garage as the fridge is too full of eggs right now!) for 3 more loaves!
We ate the loaf with dinner on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, I grabbed another hunk of dough, shaped it, and baked it and it was even better the next day. Apparently, this bread gets better with age - more sourdough like. You can keep the dough in the fridge for up to 14 days, too. Amazing!
There are other recipes in the book that are a variation on this one including baguettes, seasoned loaves, sweet breads and cinnamon rolls. I can't wait to try my next batch!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
First I gather the ingredients. For this basic loaf, I need yeast (in the black container), bread flour, salt, oil, warm water and oats. I also need a bowl to hold everything will I pre-heat the container with hot water.
Because our house is so cold (from a yeast's point of view), I have had to make a few modifications to get the bread to rise in a timely manner. I start with pre-heating the mixing bowl. This is the insert to my bread machine and I fill it with hot water and let it sit while I measure out all the ingredients.
I don't like the shape of the loaf I get from using the breadmachine to bake, so I use the knead/rise setting on my machine. This way, it does all the work AND it keeps the dough reasonably warm for the first rise. Then I take the dough out, shape it as necessary, cover it with a clean towel and set it in the oven or next to the wood stove (if it's in use) for an hour or so for the bread to do the second rise.
A fully baked loaf will sound hollow if you thump the bottom of it (out of the pan). If it's not done, it's fine to put it back into the pan and continue baking. I've done this many times as I am slowly learning to adapt my bread machine recipes to oven baking.
Then I slice it with a serated blade and stick it in a plastic bag. If I'm going to freeze it, it's much easier to pre-slice the whole loaf.
Baking your own bread is super simple, super cheap and super delicious (most of the time)! Lucky for us, flops don't go to waste. As I'm trying to learn what works best in my cold kitchen, I have screwed up a few loaves here and there. Failed bread luckily makes awesome goat treats! They just love it and since we have no more apples or things to give them as treats, home-made bread mistakes are just the ticket!
I recently acquired two awesome bread making books. One I've pretty much finished reading and I can't wait for some free time to try some of the recipes. All of the recipes are a more traditional method (hand kneading), but it's definitely something I hope to have more time for in the future. The second book just arrived last night, so I haven't had a chance to even open it yet. I've also tried the infamous 'no knead' bread from the NY times article. It turned out fairly well...but again, my cold house makes rising a bit of an issue. I'm going to give it another shot this spring. As I branch out in my bread making adventures, I'll be sure to keep my blog up to date. Maybe if I'm consistent enough, you'll be able to smell the bread baking across the internet! ;-)
Monday, January 19, 2009
While we got more apples, pears, berries and grapes than we knew what to do with this past year, there were some things that could use massive improvement. First of all, many of the grapes didn't mature well and they were extremely difficult to pick. The same could be said of the blackberries and and our loganberries had a lousy harvest. The apples were plentiful, but many were smaller than they should have been. We saw a small plum harvest, but no cherries at all. To improve all of the above, we need to prune (and spray...but that's a different entry!).
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
We then put down a layer of shredded paper (lightly moistened with water) on the bottom and them spread out the 'garbage' and worms from the previous bucket. You can see a couple of the worms surrounded by starter soil and castings in this photo:
Then we covered all the 'garbage' with more shredded paper, moistened it, and put the cover on the bin to keep out light. The whole contraption is sitting in my husband's office (the warmest room in the house at about 65 to 70 degrees).
So, all we have to do now is to keep feeding the worms our bio-waste and keep them moist and happy. We'll be able to 'harvest' the castings when we are ready to start our next round of seeds and all summer long to use in 'compost tea' or for supplementing the soil in the garden.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Lastly, I packed up all the Christmas decorations we'd put up this year. Because I chose to donate or sell all the decorations we didn't use, packing everything up was pretty simple. Now it's all safely tucked away in the basement for next year. We also moved the chicken coop again, trimmed the goat's hooves, put up blinds in our bedroom and our bathroom finally (that's the advantage to country living...no neigbors to look in our windows!) and I baked another loaf of bread and some rolls to throw in the freezer. We also did some re-arranging of our worm bin. I don't think that I've posted about it before, but my husband began our vermicomposting a few weeks ago in a big bucket. This past weekend, we changed our bin a little and I'll have a seperate post about that...so stay tuned.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
So we had a busy holiday and a productive weekend. After all the snow and ice, we had some issues with local flooding...but our house (including the basement) stayed nice and dry. Our road? Not so much. Both the road we take into our small town center and the one we live on (about 2.5 miles from us) was completely under water for a few days and closed to all traffic. Luckily, we did discover at least one route from our house, over high ground and over the ridge around the flooded areas. I also assume that if we were to head straight over the 'mountain' that we'd avoid all flooding using that route as well. Not something we'll want to do on bikes anytime soon, but in a car, it's fine.
So this weekend, we accomplished a lot. First of all, we dried off Sass. Her milk production has been falling off lately. It's natural to only get about 10 months at most out of a good dairy goat, so when her production began to really fall, we stopped milking her. I actually had to buy my first gallon of cow's milk yesterday. Man - does that taste like water or what? Ew! We did freeze some of her milk in preparation for this time, but it didn't turn out so well. Apparently, freezing skim milk is a bad idea. After defrosting, it remains separated. Ick. The whole milk we've frozen seems ok, so we'll probably defrost that as necessary for baking, cheese making or for soap making. If we have enough whole milk stored, I might try skimming it to see how that works. We'll see.
Because of all the rain, a section of the goat paddock is really, really muddy. Unfortunately, the area is near the goat shed and the gate, so we have to trudge through it. The goats avoid it as much as possible, so that's good. Bad bacteria can live in that mud (especially with the warm temps we've had lately) and that can lead to hoof rot in goats. We have learned that a healthy goat who gets plenty of copper in their diet will be able to defend against these bacteria, so we are making sure that the goats have plenty of fresh mineral available to them. We were afraid that Buddy had some hoof rot going on because he started limping. When we looked closer, it was just that his hooves were in bad need of trimming. We were told that Sass only needed it once every three months or so, but it turns out that Buddy's hooves grow much faster than that. We trimmed them as best we could over the weekend and he's already doing better. We'll probably have to do another trim next weekend, but like on a dog, you can't cut off too much at once for fear of bleeding. Of course, I managed to shave two of my own knuckles off with the hoof plane. My blood spilled is no biggie though - I'm capable of keeping my wounds clean all by myself! ;-)
We also did some work with the chickens. I cleaned out their coop while they were free-ranging. After I'd scooped out all the bedding and chicken poop (into the compost pile), I removed the temporary floor. I used it as a template to cut another floor for future use, and I put the first one back in for another few weeks or so. Then I piled in new bedding and my H fixed the perch attached to the nesting boxes which was sagging. Lastly, he tightened it's attachment to the wall for stability. The chickens were just happy to have the opportunity to run around after being cooped up so much! I like that the coop now smells better when I go digging for eggs. Speaking of which, our influx of eggs has now exceeded the previous influx of milk! We are getting eggs in all three colors now that the 'easter egg' birds are finally laying. The white leghorns are still the most prolific - we get two white eggs every day and we only have two white birds. We are collecting a total of 4 to 7 eggs each day and it's still winter. What happens when they hit their peak laying season in the summer? We are going to be overrun! I think we'll put a sign out front and sell them (the eggs, not the chickens!). Otherwise, they are really going to go to waste. I am collecting good quiche recipes though...I figure I'll bake up a few and freeze them.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that we'd purchased a greenhouse kit for our Christmas present to each other. Well, we were pleasantly surprised when it arrived a couple of days after Christmas! We spent part of this weekend cleaning out the garage and making space to assemble it. We were able to get the main frame partially assembled before we broke one of the main connectors. Oops. We have requested a replacement piece, so once that arrives we'll be able to continue with assembly. The plan is to put it out in the garden area where the sun hits the longest in the winter. We'll lay down the base, fill it with gravel on top of weed cloth, and then fit the frame on top of that. It's a polycarbonate window greenhouse with a small vent and a split door. The whole thing is only 6x8, but I think that'll be plenty big enough for us for now. I'm taking photos as we assemble this, so once it's done, I'll have a full pictorial to share!
Lastly, we made a few decisions about interior decorating. I'm actually quite excited. We finally picked out bedding for our bedroom and we came to the realization that we'll probably have to repaint. The blue we picked is nice and it looks really great with our furniture, but it's hard to match to bedding that we both agree on (the original bedding we chose sold out before I got a chance to order it!). We are also going to tile the counter tops in our bathroom. This is the bathroom that was pink that we repainted a pale sea green/blue. We originally picked the color with plans to buy solid-surface counter tops in a black/white/grey/blue speckled pattern, but they are just not in the budget right now. We have lots of experience laying tile over counters, so we are going to do black and white ceramic tile over the nasty pink counter tops. We'll also replace the ugly black sink at the same time. We can do all this for less than half of what new counters would cost us! All of this is temporary anyway. The eventual plan is to re do the entire bathroom. It's like a long hallway right now with doors at both ends and it's unnecessarily big. Our plan is to put a wall down in the middle of it and create a small half bath off the front hall and a private master bath that adjoins our bedroom. I'd also like to set up a graywater system for the toilets at the same time. That's quite a bit into the future though...we certainly don't have the cash for that right now, and we refuse to use credit.