Friday, June 22, 2012

Double Double toil and Trouble

This is what happens when you attempt to double a recipe and do not write it out with new measurements.  You see, I doubled everything fine.  Except for the butter.  I had it in my head I needed a cup of butter (which is correctly doubled, as the recipe called for 1/2 cup).
When warming said butter, my brain said "You need one cup.  One cup doubled is TWO cups".  So in effect, I doubled every other ingredient and quadrupled the butter!  I checked to see how far they were spreading, making sure I was spacing them correctly.  Imagine my shock when I saw THIS:


I was laughing so hysterically DD and DH came up to see what was going on.  I got a lecture from DH about doubling recipes, then he giggled because it is the same lecture I have given him in the past LOL!  Not enough ingredients to mess around trying to correct the mistake, into the garbage it had to go.  Trust me, it almost killed me.  A POUND of butter!  At least I had bought it on sale - a small measure of comfort.

Next problem?  No more butter to start again.  Bake sale tomorrow.  Late.  What to do?

Shhhhhhh.  I cannot believe I did this.  We had some butter flavour shortening left over from chocolate chip cookies DH made.  I do NOT use hydrogenated vegetable oil/shortening as a rule, and I won't put anything made with it in my mouth.  I sold my soul to the cookie gods, and made a new batch using the shortening.  I added salt to the recipe to make up for what would have been in the butter.
The shape is much better!  I won't post the recipe until I have a chance to try it with the proper ingredients, and I daresay I won't be tasting any of these cookies.  They look good.  My house smells like kettle corn cooked in palm oil - sounds pleasant as long as you like kettle corn, and I hate it ROFL.

Oh, and I did double the recipe again, this time writing out the new measurements and double checking.  Don't worry, DH shook his head at me in shame - tee hee!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

I hate drippiness!

I have to find myself an insulated water bottle.  I absolutely hate drinking from something that is dripping with condensation.  I.  HATE. IT.

I hate the drips on my clothes, the wet ring on the table, having to wipe my fingertips after putting the thing down.

We have some of those double wall cups with the removable lid and hard plastic straw that kind of look like take out cups.  And I really like those.  They insulate well so your drink stays cold, and they do NOT sweat on the outside.  I find them a bit hard to carry around outside though, like when I am working in the garden.

What kind of water container do you use?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pilfered Peas

While at the WECSA farm today, I happened to notice that there were quite a few peas that were ready.  I did not plant them.  I don't know if the person that did plant them had a plan for them.  I do know that I was there, it was about to get dark, and the chances anybody would be coming tonight were quite slim.  Picking those peas was a public service really, as they would be bloated and yellow by tomorrow.  Or not.  But why take that chance?!?!?

Actually, I am only joking about pilfering.  We share everything out there.  Go out, do some work, harvest what you want that is ready.  That is pretty much how it works.

Now, these are shelling peas, not sugar snap peas.  Sugar snaps are edible podded, in that they have a sweet, crisp, and entirely edible pod.  You can eat them at any stage, small and skinny like a snow pea, a little fatter with tiny peas inside that pop like caviar in your mouth, or fully mature and plump with full grown peas.  Shelling peas have a plastic like lining inside the pod that makes them unpleasant to eat.  And it is a shame, since the pods really do taste good when they are fresh picked and juicy.

I have a special technique to peel that tough membrane away so that I can eat/use the pod.  Some people eat sunflower seeds or peanuts in the shell.  I peel and eat pea pods!














If you don't feel like fiddling with them, I discovered last year that chickens LOVE the hulls.  You don't even have to chop them.  A whole shopping bag full disappeared in seconds.  You could also compost them, or use them to make a sweet pea stock - which I have never ever done LOL.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wildlife encounters of the alien kind

The most wonderous things I have ever seen in our yard would be praying manti.  I don't know how we were blessed with them, but most years we see at least one or two.  It always delights me to see them when they are small, tiny things taking a run for it across the porch or patio.  You could almost mistake them for a light green snippet of grass blowing along in the breeze.  But then you spot that triangular alien head LOL!  There seem to be quite a few little ones running around right now.

There is one that seems to like one of our hanging baskets, it's about an inch long and still very light green.  I keep trying to get a picture, but he moves so fast.  It's like he knows what I am trying to do, and wants to tease me.  Tonight I was deadheading some of the flowers in that basket, and he came out and gave me a look!  When I stopped, he went back in amongst the leaves.
It's the basket on the left.  And yes, smarty pants, I am aware that my hanging baskets are not, in fact, hanging.  Right now they are SITTING baskets, and the hooks are being used to anchor them to the chairs in an effort to keep them from blowing away.  Our yard is like a wind tunnel.  We have several shepard hook type devices in our yard, but they are all in places where I cannot easily see the baskets on a daily basis.  And if these babies have any hope of ever being watered, I must be forced to bear witness to their parched and droopy cries for help as part of my regular meanderings.

We will move one of the hooks, once I decide where I want the baskets to go.  Decisions, decisions.  Of course, I have to decide before the praying mantis gets too much bigger and I am afraid to go near the thing to move it.  There is something horrifying about a bug longer than your hand that pivots his head to watch you walk by.  Never mind finding out that those suckers FLY, and have enough weight that you feel them land on you.  *momentary break in case you, like me, need a moment to shriek inwardly while doing the heebie jeebie dance*.  For now he is small, and cute, so still allowed to be located that close to the front door.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Whatchoo lookin' at?



Tee hee!  Look at that smushy, stinky pug face!




This is the look I get when I try to eat my morning toast in peace.  Ruby thinks that I am supposed to SHARE my toast.  Always.  I have a differing opinion, however.

As much as I love good toasted marble rye bread and butter with coffee in the morning, toast just does not hold me until lunch time.  Sometimes if I add melted cheese it works, but not always.  Same with a bowl of cereal - it fills me up but by 10:00am my sugar is crashing and I am ravenous and light headed.

Eggs hold well, but I don't always feel like cooking anything bright and early in the morning.  I have been thinking about making a few omellettes, maybe a quiche or an egg casserole, that sort of thing once per week.  Then I can just pop a serving in the microwave easy peasy.  Any tips?  Have you ever done something like that?  Will you come and cook me breakfast every morning?  *snort*!

Although, I can't guarantee I can avoid...........this face.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

SPROUTS!

My new passion.  Okay, maybe not a passion.  Can a person even be passionate about sprouts?  Sure, the process is kind of fun, especially if you are a nerd like me.  I find it interesting to see the transition from a hard seed to something alive and vibrant.  A little water, a little time, and you are rewarded with a pearly root and sometimes a green shoot or leaves (depending on type, and time).  Perhaps enamored is a better word.  I am "enamored" with sprouting.

While visiting one of my favourite health food stores (I NEVER get there enough, and now she is thinking of selling...but wants the business to continue, so at least she won't be closing.....I hope) I picked up a bag of sprouting seeds.  A salad mix of broccoli, radish, clover, and alfalfa.  I have always liked sprouts, especially when they are fresh and lush and crispy.  And the instructions are easy enough.  I don't know why, in my hippiness, I have never tried making my own.















Rinse, then soak the seeds for 4-6 hours, then drain well.  I used a mason jar, with a piece of tulle held in place over the opening with the jar ring.  Turn the jar sort of bottom up, tilted, in a bowl.  Rinse the seeds and drain well twice a day, until they have sprouted and have their first set of leaves (for this type of sprout, anyhow.  You can also go microgreens, which works slightly different).  For some reason, I was smitten with the vision of a line-up of vintage jars on the counter, in various stages of sprout-ing-ness.  Doesn't that sound cute?  Tell me it is cute or I will make you look at all my sprouts again!














I did the soaking last Saturday.  The sprouts were ready for the fridge (by my taste estimate, anyhow) on Tuesday, but I think it could have waited until Wednesday.  I tried to float off the hulls, but was only partially successful.  I found I didn't mind them anyhow, so didn't press it or try any other methods (like a salad spinner).  Really, that is no time at all.  What other produce can you  harvest in just a few days time?

This is a spicy mix, with the radish in there.  I find the broccoli adds a bit of a bite as well.  Eating them as is, you almost think they are bitter until you are hit with the radish burn.  In a wrap with some cheese and tomato they are awesome!  A bit of chew from the seed coats, crunch from the tails, zing from the brassica and radish, cool grassiness and a bit of sweetness from the alfalfa and clover.  From what I have read, they will keep for several days in a covered container in the fridge.  Every time I walk by, I eat another pinch, so mine won't have to last that long!

Next, mung beans and lentils.  Done soaking, and in the rinsing stage - but not much going on yet.  Mung beans are the bean sprouts we are all used to.  Lentils, as a sprouted item, are new to me.  From what I understand I can eat them raw when the sprout is just a bit longer than the legume itself.  Other beans should be used when the sprout is very small, and should be cooked because they contain compounds that are hard for us to digest.  I am dying to try chick peas!  Sprouted hummous, here I come!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Mmmmmm.....rolls!

My husband and daughter are not big fans of sandwiches...especially those made on plain bread.  Sometimes I can get away with a sourdough or a good but very light rye, but in general it is buns buns buns.  Crusty sub rolls are their favourite, but they are getting hard to find.  The good stuff is being replaced with wonder bread in a tube shape, and contain more dough conditioners than wheat flour.

If I do get bakery rolls, I can only buy a day or two worth at a time, or else they go stale or mouldy before I can use them.  Freezing dries them out, no matter how I seal and defrost them.  It is a pain in the arse to stop every couple of days, and frankly, I tend to spend more than I should because I always pick up other things while I am there.

A dream would be to bake small batches of buns or rolls every couple of days.  That way they are always fresh, I can try different shapes and recipes to my hearts content without having millions of loaves of bread nobody will eat lying around, and my family gets good wholesome bread with no additives.  Well, that would be the dream.  Life often gets in the way, ya?

Not to mention these picky eaters are NOT as receptive to home made as I would like.  Thankfully their tastes are expanding a tiny bit, and my bread making skills are expanding as well.  The last few efforts have even surprised me.

Tonight, it was Kaiser rolls.  I planned on following a certain recipe, but it called for an ingredient I did not have and a couple of rises I didn't have time for.  I used my basic dough recipe (3 cups flour, 1 cup very warm water, a squirt of honey, a tsp of salt, 2 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast).  I added an egg and a tablespoon of non-hydrogenated margarine (what do you want, my butter is frozen!).  This went into the oven to proof with some hot water while DD had her singing lesson and I did some work at a community garden.  For the procedure to turn those ingredients into bread, let me know you are interested.

When we got home, I folded the dough (degassed, not punched down which sounds so violent).  Then I divided it into six parts.  Shaped each into a ball and let rest for a few minutes.  Then I flattened them out a bit, and let rest again.  Finally, folded the edges into the center to make the rough kaiser shape, pressing the seams into the middle to make a sort of divot.  I turned them upside down on some masa harina corn flour to rise for 30 minutes in the oven with some hot water, then another 30 covered with a towel on the oven as it preheated.  Baked for just shy of 20 minutes at 450 F (taken from the recipe I intended to use).

Results are not bad.



The inside texture is perfect. (What?  One of them was smaller.  I couldn't just leave the poor thing there to be picked on by the other, bigger Kaiser rolls).

Next time, I will change a few things.  First, I will add the smallest amount of whole grain flour to add some wheaty flavour.  Second, I will not rise the shaped rolls upside down.  I think they would have had a better shape that way.  I could always do dough ropes and tie them knot style if I want them fancier, these are rustic looking and I like that.  If I want to top them (maybe with corn meal) I would rather brush them with water and sprinkle on.  I personally like the masa, but I can see it tasting a bit dry to picky one and two.  Also, the oven temp was a bit too high.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chicken Duty

It was my night to go out to the chicken co-op coop.  The deal is, you go, fill the water and the food, clean up a bit, do whatever needs doing.  Then you collect up all the eggs for the day as your reward!  Usually when I go, I have lots of yummy treats for the chickies.

I put down the bag for a moment while putting on my shoes, and Max decided the chickens wouldn't mind sharing the loot.  He just can't resist cooked green beans.
Usually I bring the treats out to the end of the run.  The plan is to keep them busy so I can get into the enclosure without being trampled by a flock of chickens.  That is the idea anyway, whether it works or not is debateable.  Some things are overwhelmingly popular with this group.  Anything green.  Grapes go over real well.  Pasta and rice are also beloved.  I didn't have any yogurt to bring today, but when I do it is a free for all!  Heads bob in and out of the container in a blur, feathers and combs are covered, yogurt is flung with glee.  Seriously man, coveralls and eye protection are suggested.
I like this time with the chickens.  They make happy little chicken noises.  When they find something they particularly enjoy, they let out a little "oh!".  It cracks me up!  They spend their unattended time in the runs and the small area around the coop.  When people are at the farm, they "free range" - meaning roam around causing destruction and mayhem to the garden beds!
Do you see the nice mound of sticks and straw and leaf compost covering a planting of baby potatoes?  No?  BECAUSE THE CHICKENS DESTROYED IT.  Scattered all my nice branches to the four winds, and ate every last little marble sized potato.  Notice they left the thistles, and my 'pathways' made from pine branches.  A row of snow fencing has since been added in the hopes of keeping the little beggars out of the garden beds.  We shall see how well it works - the chickens might remember they can fly ;)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

FROST!

There was frost on the grass and my car windshield this morning.

But the trees are blooming!  The blossoms will wither and die!  The resulting fruit shortage will undermine the economy as we know it, causing strife, and bringing down upon us the "Zombie Apocolypse".  Because as we know, EVERYTHING ends with the Zombie Apocolypse.

If you need me, I will be hiding in my root cellar with canning jars of water, a pile of home made energy bars, and my tinfoil hat. Just in case, you know.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Wook at dat widdle face!

I just want to hug him and squish him and call him....MAX!
















I would do that to Ruby too, but she's a sassy and would get me for sure.  Here she is, getting ready to be sassy with me.  I may or may not have been teasing her.  *cough*



Disclaimer:  No pugs were squished during the making of this post.  There was plenty of baby-talk and smoochy noises, but no squishies.













Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Embrace Change!

Do you embrace change and run with it, or do you panic and hope that things revert back as you rock back and forth like a baby monkey with a wire mother?

(That there is an obscure Psychology 101 reference, in case you were wondering).

In general I am not afraid of change.  It brings an opportunity to improve on a concept, re-jig something that is not working, make efficiencies and corrections.  It also brings the chance to turn things green and play with fonts and stuff.  And that is fun that is funny, let me tell you!

Hope you like the new digs!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

What I did on my vacation

Remember when we were kids and we used to have to write about what we did on vacation? Well, last Wednesday I took a vacation day.
A group of friends and I travelled across the border to Detroit, and spent the day volunteering for(morning) and touring (afternoon) an urban farm called "Earthworks".
You can read more about the wonderful things and projects they do here. I spent a glorious morning pricking seedlings out of trays and transplanting them into cell packs. I have never done this before, in all my years of seed starting. I always figured it was just adding work. But now having seen it done, I think I understand it. It takes less room to start more seedlings, and you have less risk of losing a cell in a pack to a seed that doesn't sprout. You can also cull any that don't look strong. We were using bamboo chopsticks, and though I thought the roots would be so tangled that for sure we would damage the poor seedlings, they came out with no trouble and all and seemed not the worse for the wear.
After eating lunch in the soup kitchen (a very good lunch, btw. On my tray was what tasted like a green chili stype stew, two pieces of whole grain bread, some lunch meat and a slice of cheese, a handful of assorted crackers, salad, a piece of cake, and packets of mustard and mayo. I also took a glass of milk). For sure, this was a larger meal than I needed, but I am not trying to pack all of my daily calories into one lunch. I did like the fact that it included a salad, and the stew was very hearty. Other trays had what looked a red chili that was more beef cubes than sauce. I did not see one, but was surprised that they offered a vegetarian tray as well. The Capuchin soup kitchen also serves breakfast and will often use produce from the gardens in the menu. After lunch, we were treated to a tour by the best tour guide ever, Shane. We shared a peaceful moment near the bee hives. Last year they suffered a loss, so they did not harvest any honey. I have heard a similar story from several people this spring. Hopefully things are better this year. That is Philippa, part of our WECSA farm, Chicken Co-op, and the Ford City Community Garden. I hope she got a good picture of the bees going in and out!
We coveted their hoop house and the green house. Most of the time you see plants growing up on tables in something like this. In one of these structures, they were growing the plants right in the ground. Right now there are radishes and several crops of greens like lettuces, exotic salad mixes, turnip greens, and chard. Later in the season, they will plant tomatoes in here, and we were told they will grow upwards high enough to brush the top of the structure. You can see where they have hung and pulled back some floating row covers in the back.
They have a comprehensive compost system, taking not only their own waste from the gardens and kitchen, but also waste from local businesses (such as spent grain and hops from a brewery) to make giant piles of slowly percolating "black gold". We were told that 20% of the land was left to cover crops to "rest" each year. That along with the compost, and crop rotation will go a long way to help rebuild what years of industry and urban living have taken out. Another coveted item, their compost sifter!
There is far too much to write here about the experience. To see people working together...volunteers, interns, people from the community. To sit and break break with people from the community who are there to garden, to eat, to just spend some time. To see the carefully tended plots and raised beds on a city lot right next to a burned out house. Piles of detritous composting happily lined up in an alley nestled behind a business. We learned some things, and shared some ideas. My heart is in going back again, later in the season to see what has grown and changed and developed since this early spring visit. Social Justice? Humanitarianism? Food Security? Nah, I just came to play in the dirt ;).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Visitor this week

This is Brie.
She is visiting for a week while her family is on vacation. She as adorable, and a gentle soul.
And she fits right in!
No farm pics today. I was too stiff to do much more than bask in a sunbeam today :)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Big day, and a good dinner

The weather has been so warm here. Today it cooled off a bit, but a good day for playing in the dirt. I cleaned out two big raised boxes and one small one out at the farm (no pictures today. Hopefully tomorrow). No planting, just prepping. I might do some planting tomorrow, if I can still move ;). After hauling wet hay bales in a wagon, digging, hoeing, and some chicken shenanigans I am pretty sore and tired! I have a blister on the arch of my foot the size of an olive pit, but it is very deep. Wrong shoes, and loose socks. Somebody brought their dog to the farm and was not keeping an eye on it. It was chasing chickens, who ran into their pen. Eventually the dog got into the pen, and all the chickens ran OUT. And across the field, and into a hedge on the neighbours property. Now, when I say hedge....I am not talking about a row of bushes. I am taking about a thicket several feet wide, branches intertwined. There was a perfect little path in the very middle, just the right size for chickens to walk down. On one side was the yard, on the other the steep bank of a ditch. One of the others in the group and I took long sticks and managed to herd the chickens back down the path inside the hedge, and convince them to cross the field and go back home. Three of them did NOT want to go back at that moment. They LIKED the hedge. One was roosting up in the branches, and the other two were walking back and forth and mocking us. After much more poking and prodding into the hedge while dangling over the edge of the ditch, we were finally able to convince two of them out. The last hold out took more convincing, but I think it realized it was alone, and chickens don't like to be alone. She walked right out of the hedge and into the waiting arms of my fellow chicken wrangler. She seemed happy to be carried back to the farm. Meanwhile, the little dog managed to actually catch a chicken. He was pulled off, and we were still over at the hedge. After we had them all back, the owner mentioned she "might have seen a chicken go under the trailer". We couldn't find her at first. Then I spotted her, wedged way in the wheel well. Scared to pieces, poor thing. We had to dismantle part of the barrier around the trailer to get her out, but I was able to pick her right up. I had to reach at a funny angle and managed to pop my arm out of joint for a minute. I HATE THAT. It was the chicken that had been caught by the dog. No damage, as far as we can tell except for losing a few feathers. Now, she did help us a bit. But she abandoned the job way before I would have, if it were my dog that caused the problem. Then proceeded to putter around doing her own thing while we got scratched up by hedges. Yes I am a little bitter LOL. By the time I got home I was starving. I filled corn tortillas with salsa and cheese, tossed in some chickpeas and added more cheese and salsa on top. Mixed up some guacamole type dip while my "enchiladas" were in the microwave (I know. But I was HUNGRY). Man oh man, that was some good eating! And I ate it all too, even though I made too much. Hopefully tomorrow, pics of the farm, the chickens, and a houseguest (dogsitting LOL).

Monday, March 19, 2012

That's some good pork!

Not too far back, I bought a "pork share" from here. Berkshire pork is a heritage breed. It has deep flavour, and a LOT of fat. The meat is darker than your typical grocery store pork, and I have to admit I had to modify my cooking methods a bit. Lower, slower, give it time to render and tenderize and give up it's juicy goodness. And give it up it does. Tonight I used some of the ground pork to make "torpedoes". Mix ground pork with seasonings (I used garlic and onion powder, some bbq rub, a good dose of pepper, and some tomato/chicken bouillon instead of salt). Add some breadcrumbs. They help catch the juices and hold them. Add a beaten egg (a fresh egg from a chicken that lives in a trailer works the best, but do what you can. Tee hee!). Mix well but lightly. You see, this pork has FAT. And you want that fat to stay in pieces, rather than smear all over. Plus you don't want to compact the meat. Shape into vaguely sausage shaped things (torpedo shapes) and brown in a skillet on all sides. My rolls were very tender, so turn carefully. Once each side is browned, slap a cover on them so that the insides can steam and cook and they can firm up a bit. Turn every once in a while for even browning. Once they are cooked through, drizzle on some bbq sauce to coat, and let sizzle a few minutes more to carmelize and coat the torpedos. Since I am allergic to celery I have been experimenting with fennel (both cooked and raw). Tonight it was a slaw made with thinly sliced fennel and some store bought french dressing I am trying to use up. Talk about a sum greater than the parts! And of course, frozen baked fries LOL. The entire meal, including defrosting the flat frozen package of meat took less than 30 minutes and tastes better than anything I could get at a restaurant or drive thru. No pictures tonight. Because, let's face it. A meat torpedo kind of looks like a poop on a plate ROFL.