Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Take A Peek Wednesday: Container Garden Update!

                  It's currently pouring outside so I thought I would do a little catching up on my postings. The stretch of warm weather we had really did wonders for the garden. I was able to pluck the first harvest of the year..A beautiful juicy strawberry!
              My rainbow carrots are growing like crazy!

                        Potatoes!! They seem to be thriving in their grow bags and I can't wait to open the little door up on the bottom to reach in and grab some when they are ready. It's my first time growing potatoes and I'm really excited.

                     The golden raspberry bush has teenie weenie berries on there and really look forward to those ripening.

                      Here we have string less celery. I didn't even know this type existed until my husband picked it out for his veggie to grow.

                        Here is a bunch of veggies growing in a smaller greenhouse. We've got blue corn,baby corn, yellow zucchini,egg plant, and tomatoes. A few of my zucchini leaves had some issues with to much rain on their leaves so I sprayed a solution of baking soda and water to help them out. I already have plans on how to make things better for next year. I'm going back to my much larger green house because I ran out of space way to quickly in this one. I'm going to be ripping out more things and getting rid of the rest of the grass we have in our backyard. I am just so over grass. I want nothing but growing space!

                    This is a bingo watermelon..In the U.S. I believe they call this a sugar baby. I don't hold out to much hope for these. We need way more sun and warmth in order for these guys to grow but I wanted to take a chance anyway.

                   This is a patio snacker cucumber and believe it or not,it's growing in my front window! I have a really long front window that gets hit hard with sun and heat so it's currently houseing two huge container pots of these guys and my bingo watermelons. I'm actually leaving the cucumbers in the window because they need zero pollination and get tons of heat where they are. Isn't it just the cutest little cucumber ever?

                           I've planted wildflowers to do my part for the pollinators that will hopefully hang out in peace in my backyard this summer :) I didn't get a pic of everything..I forgot to snap a pic of my banana shallots and my mouse melons oh and my rhubarb..all three are doing very well!

How is your garden coming along?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Polenta Bread

                 Bread baking is such a part of me now that I can't imagine not doing it. It's a rare moment around here when I don't have some sort of bread rising..and when I don't it's usually because I need to hunt down some kind of new ingredient to go into the next bread I want to bake. If you are new to bread baking, all I can say is,go for it! Bake a loaf,then bake another. Bake and bake and bake. If you find yourself with to much bread then pass it on. I know there are plenty of people out there who would love a freshly baked loaf of bread. It might be the only thing they eat that day. 

This is a perfect loaf to share and so very easy to make. You can shape it any which way you like..into a round or a twist like I did. I added cheese on top with various spices but you can leave it plain if you want.

Polenta Bread

3 cups Bread Flour
1/2 cup Polenta
2 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
1 tsp. Salt
1-1/3 cups Warm Water
1 TBS Olive Oil
1 Egg Beaten with 1 TBS Water

In a large bowl or in a stand mixer of a kitchen aid,combine the flour,polenta,yeast, and salt. Add the warm water and olive oil and mix until combined. 

Either mix with a kitchen aid or knead by hand until dough is soft and elastic and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes by hand and 5 in a mixer on speed 4. Add additional flour in small amounts as needed to reduce stickiness. 

Transfer dough ball to a greased bowl,turning once to coat. Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hours.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a pizza stone in stead. Sprinkle polenta onto prepared pan and set aside.

Deflate dough on a lightly floured surface and shape into a tight ball..or shape into whatever you like. Place onto prepared pan,cover with tea towel and allow to rise until doubled in bulk,45 mins to 1 hour.

Prheat oven to 400 or 200 celcius. With a sharp knife or razor make slashes onto bread. Brush with egg wash.

Bake for 15 mins. Reduce heat to 375 or 190 celcius and bake until golden and crusty,about 30-35 minutes.

*** If using a pizza stone,allow the bread to rise on the counter top on top of parchment paper while you preheat the stone for at least 30 minutes. Slide the parchment paper with the bread onto the stone and bake**

Yield: One large loaf
Source: The Food Channel             

Friday, May 23, 2014

Zucchini-Red Pesto & Cheese Drop Biscuits


                What a beautiful week we had over here. It was so sunny and warm..something we really needed around here. My container garden is flourishing thanks to the extra bit of sun and we were able to get some much needed chores done in the yard.

Zucchini has been on sale recently so I decided to take advantage of it. I am currently growing my own but it will take awhile before I get over loaded with it and decided to get a jump start on trying out new recipes that use it.

These drop biscuits are sensational! I've made them twice already and there are so many different ways to change these up. The original recipe calls for sun-dried tomatoes but I used sun dried pesto instead. I made it again with roasted red peppers and a friend made it with yellow curry paste! 

You can make these any size you like..I use my 2 inch cookie scoop and get around 18 drop biscuits..just remember to adjust the time accordingly.

Zucchini-Red Pesto & Cheese Drop Biscuits

2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 TBS Baking Powder
1/2 cup Cold Butter,cubed
3/4 cup Shredded Zucchini;squeezed dry
1/2 cup Shredded Cheese
1/4 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
2 TBS Sun dried Pesto or sun-dried tomatoes,patted dry and finely chopped
2 TBS Minced fresh Basil or 2 tsp. Dried Basil
1 cup Milk of choice..I used low fat

Preheat oven to 400 or 200 celcius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl,whisk flour, salt,and baking powder. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs by using your finger tips or a pastry cutter. Stir in zucchini,cheeses,pesto,and basil. Add milk,stir just until combined.

Drop by 1/3 cupfuls or your size of choice onto prepared pan,flatten slightly with wet fingers.

Bake 20-26 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm

Yield: Depending on size..12-18
Source: Taste of Home


Monday, May 19, 2014

Double-Chocolate Bran Muffins

                   I am so back logged with recipes to post! The thing is..the weather has been beautiful,the yard work never seems to end, the chickens need tending,the bread needs baking,the container garden needs constant care,there are bike rides to take every night, and well..I'm just loving it! The rain will return as it always does and then I will be stuck in the house once again. So bare with me this week. It's going to be a beautiful one and then it will cool down once again.

I baked these muffins when we have some friends over. I knew the woman liked a deep chocolate flavor when it came to baked goods and was hoping this recipe wouldn't let me down. It didn't. They are moist,better tasting the day after you've baked them,and have a wonderful deep chocolate flavor. 

Double-Chocolate Bran Muffins

1 cup Bran Flakes Cereal; Crushed with a rolling pin
1-1/3 cups Buttermilk
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 Egg
3/4 cup packed Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 tsp.Baking Soda
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/3 cup Miniature Semisweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 375 or 190 celsius. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl,mix crushed cereal and buttermilk;let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in oil and egg. Stir in all remaining ingredients except chocolate chips until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Immediately remove muffins from pan and onto a wire rack.

1 Muffin has around 120 calories

Yield: 12 Muffins
Source:Betty Crocker The Big Book of Bread

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Take A Peak Wednesday: I Bought A Cow!!


                Well...I bought PART of a cow. Growing up I knew of several families who either purchased an entire cow or half and I can remember how grateful they were to have it. That meat lasted the family for close to a year sometimes and in between that they would go Elk hunting. It was such a foreign concept to me because our family wasn't anything like that and had no clue you could even purchase a whole cow. 

The last few years I have noticed the prices rising when it comes to beef..and the quality hasn't gone up with it. The flavor plain sucks and I have no clue where that beef is being trucked in from. I have all these questions now when it comes to the beef and poultry I serve to my family and I wasn't going to get the answers from a large grocery store chain. So we cut back on the amount of beef we bought.

Then about a month ago a friend posted on facebook that she found a place where you could purchase part of a cow directly from the farmer. I instantly went to the website and started reading about it. You can purchase any amount you want and once the entire cow has been sold off it is then slaughtered and everything is divided up. A week later we bought the amount we wanted and waited. We received an e-mail letting us know our cow had been divided and that after the resting period it would be packaged up and shipped off. It arrived last week and I was so excited!
              It comes in a big styrofoam container with everything vacuum sealed and with several cooling packs. It was like christmas for me and I went through every single package and lined it all up on the floor. I had to explain to my husband in detail about how good of a deal this way. We were getting cuts of beef that we wouldn't normally be able to buy at the price we were getting it for and since I do all of the purchasing when it comes to the food I was beside myself with how long this beef was going to last us and all of the wonderful cuts we were now going to be able to enjoy.

Since this was my first time purchasing a cow directly from the farmer I had no idea what to expect. There are no dyes in the meat so they said the color could look a little off but not to worry about that. It was normal. There are no additives in meat and I wondered how much of a taste difference that was going to make. It makes all the difference in the world.

I cooked up some of the ground beef and was shocked at the flavor. It was "beefy"..just like you would imagine how a cow would taste. It's a million times better than anything they sell in the store. It has the most amazing flavor and was so happy to finally rid ourselves of the mystery meat sold in the stores. I can't go back now. This tastes way to amazing.

My two freezers are stocked full and it makes me feel so content and happy. Life is good when you have a freezer full of meat!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Take A Peek Wednesday: Newcastle,England

                 Guess what I did last week? I popped over to Newcastle,England for a day! One of the coolest perks of living abroad is how cheap and easy it can be to travel around. They always have these deals here where you can rent a cabin on a cruise ship and hang out in Newcastle for the day and then return home the following morning. We decided to rent a cabin for the four of us and finally show the boys a bit of England. 
                     We boarded the cruise ship in the afternoon,dropped our bags off, and headed out onto the deck.

       It was slightly grey and overcast out but the weather was honestly perfect;not to hot and to not to cold.

                        This was the first time the boys had been on a cruise ship and even know they pretended like it was no big deal,I knew they were excited.

                Before we knew it we were on our way to England! I could hardly wait. I was in London back in 2007 and I have been begging to head back ever since. I love every single thing about England and it's the one place that I can return to time and time again.

                     We arrived in Newcastle the following morning and we all boarded a bus that was included in the package price.It drops you off in town and then picks you up in the afternoon. We had from 10 am until 3:30 pm. 

                     We hit the ground running as soon as we left the bus. Our first stop was to get something to drink because my husband and I do not function without some sort of coffee/caffeine fix to get us on our way.

                  I ordered a chai latte and it came in the biggest mug I had ever since. I gave it my best shot but I'm afraid I left over half of it. I did enjoy it with a raspberry coconut bar and a stem ginger cookie..those are the best!

I'm afraid I don't have any photos left to share. I put the camera away and just enjoyed being with the family and walking around. I fell in love with the markets there. The fresh produce as well as the meats and poultry items are far better than I what I see in the stores here..and cheaper! my goodness the cuts of pork and beef were similar to what I had gotten back home. The whole chickens were ginormous and so fresh looking. The ones here are so puny and it's a stretch to feed four with just one. I chatted with everyone that I could and just loved how friendly everyone was. I bought way to many cookbooks, stuffed my bag as heavy as I could with new foods to try, and left knowing I would have to return because I simply couldn't squeeze everything in.

I tried steak pie and mushy peas for the first time and feel in love with both. I brought back some granary bread flour to use. I've been reading about it in my British bread books and was so excited to give it a try. I wanted to purchase a set of dishes with chickens on them and bring back loads of baking pans but sadly there was just no room and having them shipped over is rather expensive. I so wish they had better selections over here. We are always stuck with just a few choices in the stores and I am so sick and tired of them determining what is going to be popular this year and then forcing you to comply. 

We had a wonderful time,laughed loads,ate way to much,and can't wait to return!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Semolina Sandwich Loaf

           I'm pretty sure I need to rename this blog to "Bread Baking with Sonya". It's really all I seem to be posting these days. I swear we eat normal foods in this house..tonight we ate cold roasted ham that was served on this bread. It was delicious. I make sure the family has all the food groups present at most meals and we drink plenty of water.. We just happen to love our bread. Like. A lot.

         This happens to be our favorite one at the moment. It bakes up so incredibly light and fluffy and makes the BEST grilled cheese sandwiches. You can't really tell in the photo but the bread is a beautiful golden yellow from the semolina flour. I'd never used semolina flour before and now I'm totally hooked on it.

Some tips about the dough..mix the first part with a spatula and then continue to mix either by hand or with a kitchen aid mixer with the dough attachment. The dough comes together in a different way because of the semolina. It reminds me of polenta when adding water to it. You think it won't work but trust me it will. It takes a few minutes for it to come together when using the dough hook and at first you really think it's just not going to happen. The dough looks a tad crumbly and you may even need to add a tablespoon more of water, but just be patient because within a few seconds it swirls together to form a beautiful dough. The dough feels slightly different than a normal bread dough. You can expect it to be slightly sticky but still very firm. I sometimes need to add a few tablespoons more of the semolina if the weather is humid.

Semolina Sandwich Loaf

300 g Warm Water
5 g-1 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
500g-3-1/4 cups Fine Semolina (Durum) Flour
15g-1 TBS Sugar
50g-1/4 cup Olive Oil
10g-1-1/2 tsp. Salt

Pour the water into a large mixing bowl or in a bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast,flour,sugar,oil,and salt, and mix with a spatula until a rough dough forms. Using the dough hook,knead the dough on speed 4 for 8-9 minutes adding more semolina or water as needed until a nice and shiny and elastic dough forms. Shape dough into a ball and place into a greased bowl and turning once to coat. Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size,about 1-1/2 -2 hours.

Grease an 8x4 or a 9x5 inch loaf pan and set aside. Gently deflate the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a log and place seam side down into prepared pan. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise in a warm spot until dough crowns just above the rim of the pan.1-1-1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 or 180 celsius. Bake until the crust is a deep golden brown and read sounds hollow when tapped,30-40 minutes.

Cool on wire rack.

Yield: One Loaf
Source: The Fresh Loaf