Monday, April 20, 2015

Easy French Bread

                 I was about to head out to mow a small strip of lawn in our back yard when I popped a piece of french bread into my mouth. I stopped, turned around, and walked straight to the computer to get this recipe up. I have so many recipes to share..I promise to get caught up soon! The weather will be turning next week and with the rain means more days in side and being able to catch up on my blogging.

This recipe is really easy! I know I say that a lot but I really don't make complicated recipes. They might have many steps but that doesn't mean it's hard and the more you work with yeast the less intimated you become by it. Even if your bread comes out wonky..and let me tell you, I still bake up wonky loaves, no body is going to care. I promise. There is no shame in funny shaped loaves. It's bread and it's good.

French Bread

5-1/2-6 cups All-purpose Flour
4-1/2 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
1-1/2 tsp. Salt
2 cups Warm Water

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook,add in 2 cups of the flour,the yeast,salt,and warm water. Turn the mixer on low and mix until combined. Turn the mixer on to speed 2 and add in 3 more cups of flour slowly. Knead for 7 minutes and adding in additional flour as needed until a smooth and elastic dough is achieved. Shape into a bowl and place into a lightly greased bowl,turning once to coat. Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size,about 1 hour.

Gently deflate the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Cover and rest for 10 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Roll each portion into a 15x10 rectangle. Roll up,jelly roll style,starting from the long side,pinching the seam shut. Pinch the ends and pull slightly to taper. Place seam side down onto prepared sheet. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise till nearly doubled in size,35-45 minutes.

Preheat oven 375/190. Uncover loaves and lightly mist the tops with a spray bottle. Using a sharp knife, make 3-4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across the tops of each loaf.

Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

** If you want a shiny crust,skip the misting of water and use an egg wash on the loaves before slicing**

Cool on wire rack

Yield: 2 Loaves
Source: Better Homes and Garden The New Cookbook 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Raspberry Jam Buttermilk Muffins

                 I apologize for the lack of postings on here..Spring is a busy time for me. I am knee deep in tiny seedlings,garden renovations,running out and soaking up the sun and warmth when it decides to show up, and tons of time spent in the kitchen trying to remember everything I learned in my bread class! 
         My fridge always has a variety of jams in it and we go through periods where we eat a lot of it but as quickly as we love it one week, we ignore it for the next two. I decided to pull the jars out and see what I could do about using them up.

Here's my answer! You can use whatever jam you want and switch out the topping if you prefer. You can leave the almond extract out,add in cinnamon,use shredded coconut on top or leave them plain. I've done all of those depending on the jam I am using.

Raspberry Jam Buttermilk Muffins

2 cups Flour..I use half whole wheat and half all-purpose
3/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Buttermilk
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
1 Egg
Jam of choice
Sliced Almonds for the top..or shredded coconut!

Preheat oven to 375/190. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with liners and set aside.

In a large bowl,whisk together the flour,sugar,baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk,oil,extracts and egg. Whisk until thoroughly combined.

Add one tablespoon or so of batter to the bottom of each muffin liner. Next drop in a tablespoons worth of jam into the center of the batter and then top with remaining batter. Sprinkle the top with sliced almonds.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for 2-3 minutes before removing to wire rack. Cool completely or eat warm..These freeze well!

Yield: 12 Muffins
Source: Heavily adapted from The Big Book of Bread

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: Bread Baking Class


              A few Saturday's ago my wonderful husband woke up with me at 5:45 am so that we could be dressed and ready to catch the morning train at 7:45. We had a 3-1/2 hour ride so that I could attend a bread baking class with a group of friends.

                 One of the perks of my husbands job is that we received free first class train passes and let me tell you, it makes all the difference in the world! There is always a seat available and it's much quieter in first class.


              When we left Enschede the sun was out in full force but the closer we got to Schagen the darker it became and as always, there was rain involved. We didn't care though because when you're with a group of women that you highly admire and enjoy being around, your world is always sunny!
       There was so much laughter and tons and tons of learning. It was held in English which totally helps when you are trying to pay attention to everything that is being said and taught. I loved every single thing about it. We baked these incredible looking loaves of bread..mine is the top right, the one with the funny ball on top. We all wanted to make sure we knew which one was ours so that we could see the final product from all of our hard work.
            There's my loaf of bread! I actually shed a few tears when it came out of the oven because it was the first time I was able to achieve a perfectly round loaf of bread. The tips and tricks I learned that day will stay with me forever. In fact, we all had so much fun with the Chef, Ralph Nieboer that we have already booked another class in a few months. This time we are doing a pizza class together. We're going to bake them in an outdoor bread oven and I can not wait! This Fall we will be attending a sour dough class and I hope I can squeeze a holiday bread baking class in November or December! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: Coop No More

            This weekend my husband and I finally tackled the chicken coop and run. We tore it all down. Well almost all of it. We still need to remove the small left part but that will be taken care of in the next few days. It looks awful out there but at least it's down. We'll be cleaning it up,planting grass and figuring out how to finish it all up. The top part of the garage needs work and we'll be putting in and taking out tiles but it's exciting to be working on it.

Heading over to Pinterest to search out some DIY garden renovations for some inspiration! 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Garlic Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

                  Hello,Monday! The weekends seem to go by so quickly now. We no more get our chores done and it's time to get ready for the new week once again. My husband and I were able to make a big dent in our Spring cleaning list so I can't complain to much. The weekends are going to be busy ones from here on out. We have a lot of plans for our garden and working on the yard in general. I need to work on our spare room and gather a huge load for donation. My need to make things as simple as possible is taking over..Simplify and down size is the name of the game these days.

Is anyone else Spring cleaning? I wish we were allowed to have garage sales but sadly it's not possible.

You know what IS possible? baking cornbread muffins whenever you want. Bake these'll be glad you did!

Garlic Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

1 cup All-purpose Flour..or Whole Wheat
1 cup Cornmeal
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Dried Herb blend..Italian,Herbs de Provence
1-1/4 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese,divided
1/4 cup Sugar..or less if you want a less sweet muffin
2 Eggs,lightly beaten
1 cup Buttermilk
1/4 cup Melted Butter or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425/220. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan with nonstick spray;set aside.

In a large bowl,whisk together the flour,cornmeal,baking powder,baking soda,garlic powder,salt and dried herbs. Add 1 cup of cheese,tossing to combine.

In a medium bowl,whisk together the sugar,eggs,buttermilk and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix just until combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the tops of the batter.

Bake 11-13 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for one minute before removing to wire rack.

Yield: 12 Cornbread Muffins
Source: Alida's Kitchen       

Friday, March 20, 2015

Chocolate Almond Bundt Cake

              I don't know how you feel about this week but for me, it was a long one. Next week is looking the same as this one so to celebrate all of us surviving it, I baked a bundt cake!

Every time I bake a cake I realize why I will never ever ever..ever become a cake baker and decorator on any sort of professional level. I don't enjoy it. Love eating cake but not baking one..Which is why I stick with bundt cakes more than anything. They don't always require crazy amounts of sickingly sweet frosting and usually they need nothing more than a light dusting of powdered sugar or a very light glaze. I can handle that. I bow down to you magical cake bakers and decorators. You are amazing!

I love the chocolate and almond combination when it comes to sweets and then bundt cake is delicious. It's moist with a wonderful hint of almond that comes from both the cake and the frosting..and speaking of frosting. I didn't have enough. I wanted it to drizzle down the side but it wasn't happening so I worked with what I had and made the best of it.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! Mine will be spent getting more seeds planted,working on taking down the chicken coop,grocery shopping and hopefully some bread baking at some point!

Chocolate Almond Bundt Cake

3/4 cup ( 170 grams) Unsalted Butter,softened
1-2/3 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
3/4 cup Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt..I used low fat
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Almond Extract
2 cups All-purpose Flour
2/3 cup Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350/180. Grease one 10 inch fluted bundt pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl,cream butter and sugar until creamy. Add in eggs,one at a time,beating well after each addition. Add sour cream and extracts; mix well.

Combine dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixtures alternately with buttermilk,beating well after each addition. Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake 50-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.** Mine was done at the 45 minute mark so you might want test yours around that time** Cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


5 TBS (70grams) Unsalted Butter,softened
2-1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
3-4 TBS Milk

In a small bowl,cream together powdered sugar and extracts. Add in enough milk until frosting achieves desired spreading consistency. Sprinkle with flaked almonds.

Yield: 1-10 inch bundt cake
Source: Taste of Home 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: Spring Garden


                  The last few days have been in the 60's so I took advantage of it by getting some things done in the back yard. It always looks rough at this stage but soon it's going to be bursting with flowers,a huge blooming butterfly bush,vegetables and tons of bees and butterflies. I can't wait!

I planted 4 rhubarb plants last year and didn't harvest any of it. I read that you shouldn't harvest anything the first year so that the plant can become more established. Well all bets are off this time around. All 4 plants came up again so I will be sneaking a few stalks off of each one. The dog you see is my neighbors. She is the sweetest boxer I have ever met. Every time she sees me she will pop her head over and wait for me to come and give her some attention.

I'd love to tell you her name but it's an odd Dutch name that I can never ever remember. So I call her Muppet. If Kermit had a dog, it would look like her I think. We are going to hit cooler weather again so I am soaking up as much sun rays as possible!

How is everything looking in your garden??

Monday, March 16, 2015

Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

                      If you come to my house,there will be cookies. There will probably be at least one or two kinds to choose from in the cookie jar and then several other kinds in the freezer. Yep, we love cookies. I am not a cookie snob and enjoy healthy,chunky,thin,small,large,stuffed,sandwiched, and anything else you can think of. Yep, I love cookies.

This is currently our favorite and I'm pretty sure I whipped up two batches last week and will probably bake another batch this week. Don't worry..we eat super healthy other wise and a cookie here and there does a soul good.

Feel free to leave out the walnuts. I know they aren't for everyone..but we love them.

Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup Unsalted Butter,room temp
1 cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
1-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour or use half Whole Wheat
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp. Salt
4 cups Old Fashioned Oats
1 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Chopped Walnuts;optional only

Preheat oven to 350/180. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a stand mixer or large bowl,beat together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined and scraping the sides of the bowl at least once. Add in the flour,baking soda,ground cinnamon and salt and mix just until combined. Add in the oats,chocolate chips and walnuts,if using. Mix until combined.

Drop spoonfuls of dough onto prepared pan.

Bake 13-14 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Cool on pan for one minute before removing to wire rack.

Yield: 1-1/2 - 2 Dozen..depending on size
Source: Catz In The Kitchen     

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: Dutch Scenery

                      Sometimes it's a good thing to take a step back and take it all in..



                    The Dutch know how to build seriously cool water towers..

                  They can also build a house that's straight out of a fairy tale.


                 What's your home looking like these days? Spring will no longer be denied..I see its presence every where I go now and it makes me so happy!!!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Peppery Cheese Bread

                So I've been keeping a close eye on the forecast...most expats who live here do. We send each other pep talks on Facebook about holding on a wee bit longer because this blanket of grey and cold has to go sometime. That sometime is now my friends. This weekend the forecast is going to be..are you ready? 57 degrees on Saturday and 61 degrees on Sunday. It's practically summer!! We're all dusting off our barbecues and digging out a pair of capri pants so that we might all get a semi hint of color on our skin..Because lets face it, at this point we could all make money as stand ins for some kind of vampire movie.

 I am so excited I can barely stand it. I'll be spending a large amount of time in my backyard and hopefully getting it back into semi shape. We are going to work on taking part of the chicken run down and decided it will work perfect for a sunflower garden! Whenever I order seeds I usually get something for free and it's either tomatoes or sunflower seeds. My husband decided to take on the challenge of planting and growing those and hopefully I will have pictures later on this summer to show you!

On to the recipe! quick breads are fabulous if you aren't in the mood to tackle yeast..although I encourage you to tackle it as some point because it's lovely. This bread can be changed up to your liking. I added in left over roasted red pepper pesto to the mix and used sharp cheddar and parmesan cheese. You could toss in some cooked bacon and onions if you like. It's all good!

Peppery Cheese Bread

2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 TBS Sugar
2 tsp. Cracked Black Pepper
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
2 Eggs,lightly beaten
1-8 oz container Plain Low-fat Yogurt
1 cup ( 4 oz) Shredded Cheese of choice
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Milk
2 TBS or more of pesto,spicy mustard,whatever you like
Additional ingredients; onions,bacon,cubed cheese,diced cooked ham,,watever you want!

Preheat oven to 1350/180. Lightly grease bottom of a 9x5 inch loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl,whisk the first 6 ingredients together. Make a well in the center and add in remaining ingredients; stirring just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5-10 minutes; remove from pan and let cool for 30 minutes to 1 hour before slicing. If you have any remaining bread,pop it into a plastic bag and put it in the fridge..toast it the following day or turn leftovers in to yummy croutons!

Yield: 1 Loaf
Source: Life,Love and Good Food

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: Rehoming The Ladies

              Sigh...I've been dreading this post. I wasn't even sure I was going to write it..but decided to when I received a few e-mails asking about the ladies and how they were doing.
                The ladies are fine but they are no longer with me. The thing is...urban homesteading is a challenge sometimes and sometimes those challenges aren't worth fighting to overcome. I live in a densely populated country where everyone is trying to do their own thing in the small spot that is theirs. I get that. I'm trying to do the same thing in my backyard.

                 The ladies,although chatty were never loud. In fact the neighborhood dogs are extremely loud compared to hens and it was a joy to hear them clucking about as they happily dug for worms and other things. There was never a complaint about them and like I said..everyone is busy doing their own thing in their own spot. So what changed? I started noticing the hens becoming more agitated as time went on. The dog barking set them off daily and they in return would launch into their stranger danger alarm call.

                  One of my neighbors is really into birds and set up several feeders and bird bathing areas for the local wildlife. So with that came a huge gathering of the small birds into the chicken run and coop. Every single day I was cleaning and re cleaning their food and water feeders because of the poop the birds left behind. They were eating and pooing on everything. I tried several things to keep them out and spent a bunch of money on several gadgets to help with the cause. I had so many birds in my backyard that it became a breeding ground of potential disease to my chickens. Looking back I should have purchased chicken wire that had smaller holes in it and trained them earlier on to use a special feeder that opens when they stand on it. Lesson learned.

They were unhappy and I was unhappy with what I was seeing. They were agitated by the birds and the dogs and I knew they had enough. I had enough. A wonderful opportunity presented itself in the form of a family who lived out in the country and was on the look out for some hens. I responded with photos of my ladies and within a few hours they were crated up and on their way to a new life in the country. The family was excited and I knew they were the right ones.

This isn't the end for me when it comes to owning chickens. I loved having them and will have them again. But not right now. I'd want to do things differently next time and since the situation with where I live isn't going to change any time soon I am putting chickens on the back burner. I am taking down the coop and run and will work on repairing the ground again. This isn't my forever home and selling a house with a chicken less garden will appeal to more people here. I miss my girls and will always remember my first flock..Mabel,Daisy,Lily,Astrid,Annie,Belle and Eliza Doolittle. What a ride we had :)

I'd also like to say that keeping chickens in an urban setting can totally work and there are many things I would do differently next asking the neighbors on both sides if we could put out a higher fence. I would save up for the extra cost to use the smaller hole chicken wire. I would train my chickens to use a special feeder that keeps other birds out..but in the end it all worked out. My girls are running free in the country and loving every single second of it.

Still...I miss them terribly.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: Seeds and A New Friend

           It's that time of the year folks!!! that absolutely wonderful time when you start placing your order for seeds! I look forward to this because it means there is an end in sight to all of this grey cold weather. Spring is on the way and planting season is about to begin. I thought long and hard about what I was going to grow in my container and raised bed gardens this year. I really wanted to focus on what me ate the most of and kind of step away from planting things that either never work for me or barely produce vegetables. So goodbye to pumpkins,watermelons,and eggplant. I actually managed to grow eggplants for the first time ever last year but I only got 4 and I decided to use my space differently in my small green house.

I am focusing on cucumbers,zucchini,carrots and potatoes. I still need to pick up a few more seed packets. I want another packet of rainbow carrots and way more sprouted potatoes to grow hopefully twice as much as last year. We loved those! I also decided to grow a few new things...

        We have a local store here that has some kind gimmick going on a few times a 10 euro worth of food and get some sort of prize. I wasn't really excited about any of them until now. For every 15 euro that is spent you will get one tiny seed pot to grow your own fruits and vegetables! I had to stop myself from jumping up and down and screaming yes! when the cashier asked if I wanted a few of the pots. You never know what you are getting until you slide the little peat growing box out and look at your tiny tag. I decided that whatever I was given during the promotion that I would do my best to grow. So far I have,one container of broccoli, two spring onions and one radish container. I am so excited and hope they all sprout!
         Since my birthday is on Dec 1st, my youngest son has always gotten me something having to do with Christmas. For years he has picked out a new snow globe to add to my collection..but not this year! This year he went to my favorite garden center and purchased a grow your own Christmas tree gift set! It came with the seeds and a burlap bag of dirt to plant it in. So out of the 10 million seeds it seemed like I planted a few months ago, this was the only one to come up. I'd like you to meet, Charlie. I have such wonderful plans for this little guy. Speaking of friends..lets meet him!

          I went out to feed the girls and spotted this little guy. We both just stood there and stared at one another. We even moved in closer at the same time to kind of see how the other one felt about the whole situation. I call him Tiny Tim. I asked that he please stay out of the covered food containers and to please not jump out and scare me like he did this time.

Who's growing a garden this year?? let me know what you are planting!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Double Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

              I don't know about you, but I always seem to have at least two to three overripe bananas at any given time. I usually pop them into the freezer to use at a later date but the freezer is full of pork and beef packets we ordered from a farmer so I decided to bake with them right away. When you have two teen aged boys that are forever hungry it's always nice to have a snack on hand to the tide them over until dinner time.

Double Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

1-1/4 cups All-purpose Flour or White Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed Cocoa Powder
1-1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
3/4 cup Mashed Ripe Banana
1/3 cup Sour Cream..I used plain yogurt
1 Large Egg
1/2 cup Sugar..I used 1/4 cup
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 cup Semi sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350/180. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl,sift together the flour,cocoa powder,baking powder,baking soda,salt and cinnamon.

In a large bowl,whisk together the banana sour cream or yogurt,egg,sugar,oil, and vanilla until well blended. Add the flour mixture and chocolate chips into the wet ingredients and gently mix until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among prepared liners.

Bake 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 12 Muffins
Source: Scientifically Sweet 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: A Walk Through The Neighborhood

               A week or so ago my youngest came down stairs to announce he was in need of a book written in Dutch by a Dutch author. Normally that's not a big deal..simply go to the library and check one out. Only his bike was being used by my husband and he wasn't exactly sure about how to get there and I so wasn't in the mood to walk into town. 
               So off we went to the neighborhood bookstore/mail office/ office supply store/Hallmark type thing without all the cute ornaments or figurines. So this is my neighborhood and this is the store I shop at once a week..or several depending on what I forgot during my weekly shop.
     I miss American cars....every so often I will see a large truck of some kind and it makes me laugh. For one..they do NOT know how to drive or park the large can tell by how wonky they park while taking up 4 spaces because they can't seem to get the truck in straight. In their defense I will say that that parking spots are smaller and more narrow..but still. If you are going to drive it, then learn how to park it! Secondly, it costs an arm and a leg to fill your car up here so this is costing them that and both their legs each time they fill it up. Still..I miss American cars. Can you spot that sign up there? lets look closer...

         Yep..KFC and letting you know it's open until 2 am...And no, I have never ever gone there. I just can't. They don't even serve the gravy or the biscuits!

           It's common to have homes on top of businesses here. They cram you into any available space that they can.

                The bottom part of that building is my doctor's office. I've been there a total of 3 times. Behind me is the store I took my son to but didn't want to snap a photo with all of the people walking by. I am so not comfortable snapping pics with random people being in it. I miss American neighborhoods..and houses!