Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Take A Peek Wednesday: Around The House

           
 Winter is on the way. I've been busy with The Ladies and getting their home ready for the colder months that lie ahead.
           

     
      We made sure to pick out a hearty breed that doesn't mind the cold winters here. It doesn't get brutal but it can and will snow and combined with the Noah's Ark worthy amounts of rain..well we didn't want any wimpy hens. These girls are really enjoying the cooler temps and happily run around all day. Still no eggs yet..but you know I'm checkin..a whole lot if I'm honest.
                  


        Speaking of keeping warm..we finally have our wood burning stove all set up! We've been enjoying a warm fire nightly for about 3 weeks now. I have wanted one of these since forever and can't tell you the joy it brings to me when I get to sit down for the evening in front of it. It's perfect for our living room and heats it up to a perfect temp. I actually look forward to when everyone is home on a day when it snows. I see hot chocolate and a christmas movie while enjoying the fire when it does happen!
            


    I have so many crafts pinned that I finally decided to actually do one of them! I went out into my yard and picked out some branches,came inside and hot glued them together to look like a tree! Well..I needed some help from my husband because I am not to be trusted with hot glue unsupervised. I think it came out cute and can't wait to hang it on our tree!
                


          Here is a pic from my living room window that faces the back of the house. You can tell how long our area is. If you look all the way back and to the left, you can just make out the lighter wood that is the chicken run. Every morning I will stand on my toes to see if I can see the white one,Belle ( she is the only one that stands out with her color in the early morning), and when I see her then I know it's time to run out to feed and water them. The window you see on the left is my kitchen window and the door next to that is our backdoor. 

P.S. My neighbor to the right of me is moving. If you are considering a move to The Netherlands and fancy being neighbors with one happy bread baking,hen raising,veggie growing American,send me an e-mail and I will share the link of the realtor :)








Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

        

Living abroad can be tricky around the holiday season..especially if the country you live in doesn't celebrate the same things as you do. Like, the 4th of July,Halloween, and Thanksgiving. It becomes even more strange when they do celebrate the same holiday as you..but in a different way. You start sinking into a big depression sometimes that can take years to climb out of. It took me awhile to source out what I needed and what I couldn't find I needed another version of. It's taken me a few years but we celebrate Thanksgiving just like home now!

The only difference for us now, is when we eat our meal. We decided to always have it on the weekend since no one has the thursday off and it was more relaxed that way. So we decided on Saturday to have it since next weekend is my birthday ( I'm looking at 39 this year and not sure if I will embrace 40 by 2014!). 

We had the best time. It was our first Thanksgiving in our own home and that alone was something to be really thankful for. I had many many blessings to count this year and it really made me aware of how long I had been waiting for this moment. I was living in my own home. My very own home. We had a fire going in our wood stove and as I glanced out the living room window I could see the Hens running around. Everything at that very moment all came together for me. I am living the dream I never thought would come true.

 Now some people will see my place and laugh at me. Sure it's in a neighborhood and of course the yard isn't huge and yes I talk like I live on a 5 acre plot when in reality it's a very small but long yard..But it doesn't matter because it's mine and I love it. To me I do live on that plot of land that will allow me to grow what I want and raise chickens. I've already got the chickens and this summer, I'll have the homegrown veggies! I am thankful for every blessing I have right now. I'm even thankful for the painful lessons I have learned along the way. They make me love this house and all the hard work that went into it that much more.

I'm thankful for every one of you that takes the time out of your day to stop by and say,Hi. I love the e-mails you send to me and all of the wonderful comments you leave me. So thank you.

You know what I'm also thankful for? buttered covered turkey. Seriously this was my best turkey to date. It was crazy moist, not one least bit dry, and it's a method I will use both on turkey as well as chicken! I simply took softened butter and mixed it with various seasonings. I smeared a small amount underneath the skin and the rest I covered the entire turkey with. After one hour is was a beautiful golden brown so I tented it. I never basted it once. The turkey under the skin was covered in seasonings and tasted incredible. Butter really does make everything better!

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving this thursday!!! 











Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Cake Slice November's Cake: Applesauce Spice Cake


 Have you heard of The Cake Slice? I've been keeping my eye on them for some time. I have always loved the idea of joining in on a group that all bakes from the same cookbook and the recipe once a month. I then love chatting with them about it and then getting all excited about the next item we are going to bake. Well..I can officially say that I am now a member of the group! As soon as I noticed they were taking new members I leaped at the chance. 

My oldest son laughed at me when  I said I joined an online baking group. So..yeah, I can sorta see what he means..but he stopped laughing and got excited when he realized he would be eating some sort of cake once a month..for a whole year. He got behind the idea real quick after that. For me it makes perfect sense to join an online group..living in The Netherlands and not being surrounded by any sort of bakers makes me lonely for like minded people. I am now surrounded by like minded people :)

Anyway..lets get started. We are baking from a book called,Great Cakes by Carole Walter. The book doesn't have very many photographs..which totally shouldn't stop you from buying it. Some of my favorite cookbooks have little to none when it comes to photographs. I will be posting each recipe on the 20th of each month and our first cake is the applesauce spice cake. It's kind of left up to us in regards to posting the recipe. Some will,some won't. Although I enjoyed the cake I won't be posting the recipe. The simple reason is..we loved the brown sugar glaze the best!
       
 

             If you have a favorite spice cake recipe that has a mixture of apples,nuts,cinnamon,and nutmeg..I would say please use this glaze to go along with it. We loved it. Like alot. I have serious visions of me making just the glaze and then taking the whole bowl into the pantry to eat alone with a spoon. I'm not saying I will. But I totally could. If you really want the recipe of the cake, click on one of the member links below and I'm sure you will find several who have included it.

Brown Sugar Glaze

3 TBS Butter
3 TBS Light Brown Sugar
3 TBS Heavy Cream
3/4 cup Sifted Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp. Vanilla

In a small saucepan,melt the butter with the brown sugar over low heat. Then,stir in the heavy cream and cook slowly until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and gradually add the powdered sugar in three additions,whisking until smooth. Add in the vanilla and whisk to combine. If the icing is to thick,add a few extra drops of the cream. You want is pourable but not runny. It sets quick so get it on the cake as quickly as possible.

Yield: 1/2 cup,enough to glaze a 9-inch bundt cake
Source: Great Cakes












Monday, November 18, 2013

Scotch Pancakes

             

           Happy Freezing Cold Monday! It's really cold,you guys. The hens might have to come and live inside with us for the winter because I don't know if I can keep making myself go out there every morning. I imagine I look rather comical to anyone else who might be up at the crack of dawn and looking out their bedroom window. You'll see me trucking towards the hens with fresh food,talking to them about the importance of laying their eggs already, and then tossing the food around as fast as I can so that I can make a mad dash back inside to fill their water container back up only to have to then run back out to give it to them. I'm in trouble when it starts pouring down with rain or snow.

I see alot of homemade soups and breads in our future..infact for Sunday dinner we had Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup with thick slices of Cider Loaf. For dessert we had leftover Cowboy Coffeecake. We were happy campers!

These pancakes are also making us happy these days. I had never heard of a scotch pancake until I purchased a new bread book called, Brilliant Bread by James Morton. He's from the U.K. and I'm loving his book. I've baked 3 of his breads so far and we've loved all of them. Then I spotted this recipe in the back of the book. He mentioned eating them with butter and jam..not maple syrup like American pancakes. I went hunting for other recipes of it online and sure enough, they all ate theirs with jam..almost like toast. I'm gonna be honest and say that we did infact eat ours with maple syrup and peanut butter instead of butter. They were crazy good. I've made these about 4 times now and we love them a little bit more each time. They are fat,thick,perfect little fluffy pancakes. Eat them with jam and butter or with maple syrup or however you like. I know you will love these.

And yes, the recipe is in grams..

Scotch Pancakes

200 g Flour
1 TBS Baking Powder
1/2 tsp/ Salt
2 Eggs
100 g Milk..I needed more**

** The recipe makes a very thick batter..to thick in my opinion to drop by tablespoons full. I added enough milk to form a very thick batter that almost starts to run off of the spoon**

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together until nice and smooth.

Preheat a frying pan over medium heat. Add a small amount of butter to grease the bottom of the pan. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons full onto prepared pan and slightly spread the batter out..it won't spread out on its own so spread it out just a little. Cook for 1-2 minutes,until bubbles start to form on the outside and the bottom is golden brown. Flip and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.

Serve warm

Yield: 14-16 wee fat scotch pancakes
Source: Brilliant Bread  
            











Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Take A Peek Wednesday: Christmas Cactus and Music

       

               Do you own a Christmas Cactus? I love these guys. I've got two..one that has white blooms and the other has a pinkish red bloom. 
                         
 

           Something pretty amazing happened when we moved into our new house. I placed them in our one of our living room windows and watched in amazement as they began to grow and grow. I had them in a window in our other place but there is something about the amount of light they get here that I guess they didn't get in the other one. Then the blooms started popping up a few weeks ago. I would get maybe 4 or so blooms when we lived in the other house..but in this place? they are covered on both plants! I've never seen so many blooms before and I'm so excited to watch them all open up. It's the simple things I tell ya.

Have you started playing Christmas music yet? I started this morning. I know some people wait until after Thanksgiving to get into Christmas..but life is to short to wait sometimes and I decided to enjoy it as much as possible this year. There is a radio station online called, AccuRadio and they have an entire section for Christmas music and I'm so happy I can barely stand it :)

Still no eggs yet..I check every morning when I feed the hens but so far they haven't blessed us with any.








Monday, November 11, 2013

Mint Chocolate Chip Muffins

     

      I slacked off with my blogging last week..it was just,one of those weeks. I wasn't feeling 100% myself and just decided to take a quick step and regroup a little. I go through that every so often...well I was already waiting for it. I get a little down when the holidays start coming on. I miss home and everything that means when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is what it is and I'm really good about kicking my own ass and pushing myself forward,but I also know that a few days of down time does wonders for me in regrouping and pushing forward. I am planning our meals and can't wait to buy our first Christmas tree and get it set up in our new home :) We're still getting everything situated..4 months on and I still have some boxes to unpack and a few walls to paint!

So lets move on,shall we? Muffins are a staple in this house and as soon as I spotted this recipe I ran into the kitchen to make them. I love,love,love, mint chocolate so I prayed that no one else in the house would like these so that I could have them all to myself. No such luck because everyone else loved them too.

Mine came out darker than I would have liked and will keep a better eye on them next time. My oven has a special cake/muffin mode and it tends to bake everything up a lot quicker and I keep forgetting that. If you are a fan of mint chocolate,give these a try! And yes..the recipe is in grams..buy a weight scale already :)

Mint Chocolate Chip Muffins

280 g Flour
1 TBS Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
115 g Sugar
150 g Chocolate Chips..I used mini's
2 Eggs
250 ml Milk..I used low fat
85 g Butter,melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp. Mint Extract
Green Food Coloring,optional

Pre heat oven to 370 or 190 celcius. Line a muffin tin with wrappers and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour,baking powder,salt,sugar, and chocolate chips.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs,milk,melted butter,mint extract and food coloring ( I think I used maybe 4 drops). Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Fill your muffin cups 3/4 full. 

Bake for 20 minutes of until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire rack and enjoy warm or room temp.

Yield: 12-14 muffins
Source: Not Only Muffins 




Monday, November 4, 2013

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

               

          Happy Monday! Did everyone have a good weekend? Ours was pretty laid back. The weather wasn't all that great so we spent it in doors. I was able to get a jump start on some baking which is always good in my book and happily thumbed through a new cookbook I received a few days ago. Today it's pouring down again and I'm already dreaming of warmer times!

While zooming around the kitchen saturday morning I was able to whip these babies up for us to share as a mid morning snack. Baked donuts will never replace the fried version..and I'm going back on one of my beliefs in never owning a deep fryer. It's time,people. I am having dreams of apple fritters and maple bars and since they take awhile to make, I won't be doing it often. So in between those, I will rely on the baked versions. These donuts are soft,full of flavor, and a great way to use up any left over pumpkin or sweet potato puree you might have laying around!

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

3/4 cup Pumpkin Puree
2 Large Eggs
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Bread Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

Topping:
3 TBS Sugar
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 or 180 celsius. Grease a 6- well donut pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

Using a hand held mixer or whisk, combine the puree,eggs,vanilla,sugar, and oil. Beat just until it's smooth.

In a small bowl,combine the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low,add in dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Fill each well 1/2 full and smooth the batter.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

In a small shallow bowl,combine the topping ingredients. Remove donuts from pan and immediately toss into the coating,turning over and over until covered. Cool slightly on wire rack and enjoy warm with coffee,milk,or tea!

Yield: 8-9 Donuts
Source: Pick Fresh Foods

 










Friday, November 1, 2013

Nigel Slater's Cider Loaf

      

         Happy Friday! Yesterday was Halloween..so I bought some candy..and waited. Then waited some more. Then sampled some of the candy..and waited some more. Then I gave the family some candy and we waited some more. I was in bed by 9 with a bowl full of candy. No one came. I keep hoping trick or treating will catch on like it has in Amsterdam and other Dutch towns..but so far in the 7 years of living here, I haven't gotten one trick or treater. Oh well..maybe next year!

Halloween was still a great day though,mostly because of this bread! I got up this morning and baked another loaf to tuck away in the freezer for later on and already put down more dry cider onto my shopping list so that I can bake more of it. It's really that good. When it comes to plain bread..plain as in,no cheeses or anything else added, this has to be in my top 4. The dry cider adds a subtle yeast hint..almost like a beer bread but not as overpowering and I swear it makes the bread fluffier and crazy soft. The loaf is huge by the way and will disappear quicker than you think.

The recipe has you weighing your ingredients, and like I have said a million times before: Buy. A. Weight. Scale. Your life will change when it comes to baking. The hardest things you need to find for this recipe is dry cider and whole wheat spelt flour. It's worth it. I promise.

Cider Loaf

250 g Wholemeal Spelt Flour
250 g Bread Flour
1 tsp. Salt
150 ml Milk
1 tsp. Honey
2 tsp. Instant Yeast
250 ml Dry Cider

In a large mixing bowl,add your weighed flours and salt;stir to combine and set aside.

In a small saucepan,warm the milk and honey together. You want the milk just barely warmed up. Take it off the heat. Stir in the yeast and allow to stand for 5 minutes or until the yeast is nice and foamy. Pour the cider into the milk mixture and then dump it all at once into the flour. Grab a wooden spoon and stir until a rough ball has formed.

Tip out onto a lightly floured surface ( the dough is going to be sticky but DO NOT add anymore flour than what is needed.a sticky dough is ok in this matter. I think I only added 1 tablespoon of dough in the 5 minutes that I kneaded it.) Knead the dough for 5 minutes and then place into an oiled bowl,turning the dough once to coat it. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise in a warm spot for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for one minute. Shape into a bowl and return to the bowl. Cover it with a tea towel and allow it to rise again for 25-30 minutes,until the dough has risen once again.

Preheat oven to 400 or 200 celcius ( the original recipe has a much higher temp but I worried about it burning so I opted for a lower temp and it was just fine). Flour a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper and set aside ( I used parchment paper and baked it on a pizza stone. If you are going the stone route,pop it in the oven to warm up while you preheat your oven). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, Knead a few times and then shape it into a nice round ball;place onto prepared pan or parchment paper. Dust the top with flour,cover with a tea towel and allow to rise 15-20 minutes..about the length of time it takes your oven to heat up.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when taped. The dough seriously expands in the oven and will split around the bottom. It's ok. I actually thought I had done something wrong until I looked up other versions of this loaf and they all came out looking like mine. You can also score the top of your bread, and I did that this morning and it still split slightly.

Cool on wire rack and enjoy!

Yield: One large beautiful fat loaf
Source: Kitchen Diaries 2