Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Bird in the Hand (by Kat)

The chicks are growing!
They spend the days outside in their pen,
and are sure tuckered out every evening when we bring them in.
They're so easy to handle, falling asleep in our hands.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nashville Warblers (by Kat)

These cool little birds began visiting our yard earlier this month. I finally took a photo last weekend and posted it to our local Audubon group. Of course, my ID was wrong, but I was quickly corrected and people were excited. Now, while I'm sick in my house, Audubon-ers are hanging out on the sidewalk, ooh-ing and aah-ing while gazing toward my house.

The best part?
One of our cats brought one into the house this morning.
Can you spot the interloper below?

I didn't see any Audubon witnesses out there as I finally released him back into the wild...but some of those folks have mighty strong binoculars. I'm just waiting for the phone-call!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cherry Blossoms (by Kat)

Hack, cough, hack, hack,
Here's a photo of our cherry tree from this weekend.
Hack, hack, cough.
Back to bed.

April Daring Bakers Challenge: Spotted Dick (by Kat)

First off, remember this weekend when I mentioned "gulping down spring?" Apparently, I gulped too much. After a few weeks of a nagging cough and chest pain, which I had attributed to Doing Too Much Too Soon and a possible recurrence of childhood asthma issues, I went for a Quick Visit to the Doctor, which resulted in a Quick Visit to the Hospital, followed by a diagnosis of pneumonia.

Pneumonia in late April?!!! What the heck??!!!

All's well, though, and I only mention it because the drugs are a little bit, well, yeah.


The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Heh, heh, I said spotted dick.
Heh heh, heh!

Moving on...

Obligatory challenge blog-checking lines: The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

This month's challenge threw a lot of Daring Bakers off their rockers. The backlash against using suet was extreme, to say the very least, and quite a few people backed out. I pity those people--this challenge was one of the most fun yet, and one that I see most influencing my future kitchen repertoire. I was going to use the word affecting, but maybe it's supposed to me effecting. I can't remember. Did I even use the right from of it's in that last sentence? I think so, but please don't hold me to it. Remember, Bet is the English Teacher--not me.

Where were we? Right. Spotted Dicks. Heh.

So, the British like to Steam Things. Steamy! Essentially, you put your cake batter and What Have You in a bowl, cover with foil, and steam in a pot on the stove for a few hours. It's called a pudding, even though it's a cake. Likewise, you make a pastry crust, line a bowl with it, put in sweet or savory pie stuffings, top with more pastry crust, cover with foil, and steam in a pot on the stove for a few hours. It's called a pudding, even if it's made with meat, and even though it looks like a pie.

Here in po-dunk nowhere, I couldn't get suet. I tried, but it didn't happen. Also, since nobody in my house eats raisins or currants, especially Raisins or Currants in Baked Goods, I didn't make spotted dick (heh, heh heh).

Instead, I made an orange marmalade pudding and a candied ginger apricot pudding.

The orange marmalade pudding wasn't very good in human terms, but the chickens love it. I think the problem arose when I substituted bagel crumbs for bread crumbs. Oddly, the resulting dessert taste Just Like Corndogs. Ewww.

The candied ginger with apricot jam rocked the world. In the above abomination I used homemade orange marmalade, and in this take on the challenge I used homemade apricot jam. In this instance, unlike the one above, the jam was not wasted. I essentially followed a Martha Stewart recipe which you can find here.

Steaming results in luscious, moist, and somehow golden cakes. What intrigues me the most are the possibilities this opens up for camp food. Using this method, I think I can reliably steam cakes in a dutch oven over a campfire, circumventing my usual problem of burned bottoms and raw interiors when I make cake on an open fire.

There's lots more to be said, and truly this challenge is worthy of a better post. Sadly, you'll have to find other Daring Bakers' posts to get that. Might I recommend Audax Artifex?

Below, you'll find the challenge as given to us by Esther.

Over and out.

This is Esther from The Lilac Kitchen!

The challenge I would like to set you this month is to try a very British dish and a very British ingredient.

The actual recipes (I am giving you a choice) are pretty simple really but the cooking method and the core ingredient are something that many people do not use or do on a regular basis if at all.

Those of you who know me might be surprised that as one of the early Alternative Daring Bakers I’m not doing a gluten-free recipe but we have just had one of those and I wanted to do a traditional British pudding and honestly a gluten-free traditional British pudding is a rare beast but the type I have chosen are very easy to convert.

These are very homely dishes but I thought that would be an interesting contrast to some of the very decorative dishes we often do and I am sure some of our members will still make them look spectacular!

Some of you will know about the British and the word pudding but for those that don't we use the word for many things:

1) Black pudding and white pudding a sort of meat and grain sausage. Black pudding uses blood as well as meat.
2) Pudding — a generic word for desert
3) Pudding — any dish cooked in a pudding bowl or pudding cloth normally steamed, boiled but sometimes baked.
4) An endearment i.e., "How are you today my pudding?"

For this challenge we are using the third meaning a dish cooked in a pudding bowl or cloth, though many of you may opt to do a sweet version in which case version two also applies!

The special ingredient is suet. Please, please don't worry if you can't get it. I will be suggesting alternatives but if you want to stretch yourselves and try some very traditional British dishes do try and source some as it does make a difference to the texture and Daring Bakers is all about trying things you wouldn't normal do or use. Please remember there are alternatives so please don’t worry if you can’t get or don’t want to use suet !

So what is suet?

It is the hard but flaky fat found on the inside of a cow or sheep around the kidneys and that area of the body. Suet in its raw form crumbles easily into small chunks so much so that my butcher says it covers his floor in bits if he doesn't have it taken out as soon as possible. In fact unless he knows he has a customer for it he has the abattoir take it out and throw it away and when I want some he gives it to me for free! It also melts at quite a low temperature, which has an effect on how it works in cooking. In some places such as the UK it is sold processed which basically means it is grated and combined with flour to keep the individual pieces from clumping together, and it becomes a sort of dried out short strands, almost granular in texture.

For people on a gluten-free diet like myself be careful as most if not all the processed stuff uses wheat flour, though the vegetarian version normally uses rice flour. As I said I get mine direct from the butcher and I suggest if you want to try this challenge fully you go down to your local butcher and ask them if they can source some for you. If they can it will not be expensive as it is just fat and they might even give it you for free!.

For those going “Yuck! Fat from the inside of an animal … no thank you!”, I have some good news. There is a vegetable suet available here and indeed anyone can substitute a hard, white vegetable fat. Wikipedia says the UK vegetable suet is made from palm oil so something of that ilk would work. I am led to believe a vegetable shortening, like Crisco will give you a similar effect. So please feel free to use whatever you feel most comfortable with or can get. Lard is also a possibility. Ideally steer clear of things like butter or soft margarine as you will get a very different texture and taste however if you are not comfortable using any of the fats I've suggested I am providing some links to recipes using butter right at the bottom (and one vegan) but read all the tips before that anyway You could even try substituting something like Coconut oil if you wish but in both these cases try a sponge pudding first as they are more tolerant of such changes.

However, back to the real stuff assuming you feel happy to use it. If you manage to get some from the butcher you will end up with something very much like this.

The packet stuff looks like this both the meat and veggy versions which is probably easier for most people to deal with if you can get it.

However if you are going the whole hog and trying the fresh stuff then the fat then needs separating from the membrane that holds it loosely together. Personally I normally just pull it apart with my hands and crumble the fat off the membrane but if you wish to make sure you completely remove everything except the pure fat you need to render it.

To render the fat, chop or grate it up and put in a pan. Then you slowly heat it over a low flame until it is completely melted. Carefully, because hot fat is very much not something you want to get on your skin, pour it into a sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove all the little bits of membrane and such like from the pure fat. If it still has bits in reheat until liquid and restrain.

So once you have your suet or suet substitute, what are we going to make with it? The answer to that is of course suet pudding. However I am giving you not one but two forms of suet pudding and both can be either savory or sweet so you have lots of options to play about with the idea.

The two basic types are a suet crust pudding with a filling or a suet sponge pudding. Examples of a pudding with a crust are a steak and kidney pudding or a Sussex pond pudding and examples of the sponge pudding are spotted dick, Christmas pudding and college pudding.

Both types are traditionally steamed in a pudding basin for at least an hour and this is a technique I know some people rarely, if ever, use. However it is very simple and can be done with the simplest of equipment. All you really need is a reasonable size saucepan with a lid, ideally with a heat proof plate or a steamer rack to go in the bottom of the pan and heat proof bowl or similar container to cook the pudding in. You can even go more basic than that and wrap the pudding in a cloth and hang it in the pot of water to boil!

Other uses for suet include dumplings for stew, making mincemeat for mince-pies, mixing with seeds to make fat balls for birds and as an extremely high calorie survival food for extreme environments such as arctic expeditions.

So the required elements of this challenge are:

1) to make a suet pudding using real suet or as close a replacement as you can manage or is acceptable to you; and
2) to cook it by steaming or if you want to be even more traditional by boiling tied up in a cloth.

Due to the short amount of time I ended up having to get this challenge together I have not tried out all the recipes recently, however they are all ones I have either used in the past or from sources I know to be extremely good for these sort of recipes.

Recipe Source: Recipes come from the following sources: Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, The pudding club (, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management and the Dairy Book of Home Cooking and my family’s recipe notes!

Blog-checking lines: The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Posting Date: April 27, 2010

Notes: Fresh suet should be kept in the fridge or do what I do and freeze it. I crumble off what I want as I go straight from the freezer. The boxed stuff can live in the cupboard.

The easiest way to steam a pudding is in a dedicated steamer as the water is kept away from the pudding so it can’t boil over. If, however, you don’t have a steamer use a pan large enough to easily fit the bowl you are cooking. Don’t fill the water more than about a third of the way up the bowl or it may boil over and into the bowl. Keep an eye and top up as needed with boiling water.

You need to lift the bowl off the bottom of the pan. This can be done with a steamer stand, an upturned plate or even crumpled up kitchen foil — anything that can stand being in boiling water and lifts the bowl off the bottom of the pan will work.

Make sure you have a well-fitted lid on the pan as you want the steam to cook the pudding not to boil off.

Make sure you put a pleat in the foil or paper you cover the bowl with to allow for expansion and then tie down tightly with string.

This is a bowl ready for the steamer, note the handle made from the string that also ties it together around the top.. this makes it very much easier to lift out when hot and is well worth doing.

This bowl is actually a Christmas pudding I made before Christmas which is also a suet pudding but unlike most made to keep for months rather than used straight away.

Variations allowed: You are allowed completely free rein on flavours and fillings and I am very much looking forward to seeing where the Daring Bakers take a very traditional dish like this.

Any variations due to restricted diets are of course allowed. Due to the way these recipes are cooked it’s very easy to substitute for gluten-free flours and get very much the same results as wheat. Do try your favorite flour mix as these are much more tolerant of flour changes than most pasty.

They can be made vegetarian and even vegan just by using the vegetarian replacement suet and an appropriate flavour/filling.

Preparation time: Preparation time is 5 to 20 minutes depending on the filling. Cooking time is 1 to 5 hours so do this on a day you have jobs around the house to do or are popping in and out as you need to occasionally check the pan hasn’t boiled dry! However it is otherwise a very low time requirement dish.

Equipment required:
• 2 pint (1 litre) pudding bowl or steam-able containers to contain a similar amount they should be higher rather than wide and low
Traditional pudding bowl so you know what is normally used.

• Steamer or large pan, ideally with a steaming stand, upturned plate or crumpled up piece of kitchen foil
• Mixing bowl
• Spoon
• Measuring cups or scales
• Foil or grease proof paper to cover the bowl
• String

Type 1 Puddings — suet crusts.

Pudding Crust for both Savoury Pudding or Sweet Pudding (using suet or a suet substitute):


(250 grams/12 ounces) Self-raising flour (Note* If you cannot find self-raising flour, use a combination of all-purpose flour and baking powder.)
(175 grams/6 ounces) Shredded suet or suet substitute (i.e., Vegetable Suet, Crisco, Lard)
(a pinch) Salt and pepper (Note* If making a savory dish, can be replaced with spices for sweet if wished.)
(210 millilitres/a little less than a cup) Water (Note* You can use a milk or a water and milk mix for a richer pastry.)

1. Mix the flour and suet together.
2. Season the flour and suet mixture with salt and pepper if savory and just a bit of salt and/or spices if sweet.
3. Add the water, a tablespoonful at a time, as you mix the ingredients together. Make up the pastry to firm an elastic dough that leaves the bowl clean. The liquid amounts are only an estimate and most recipes just say water to mix.

4. Don’t over handle the pastry or it will be too hard.
5. Reserve a quarter for the lid and roll out the rest and line a well-greased bowl.
6. At this point add your filling.. a couple of options are give below but have fun and go wild!
7. Roll the final piece of pastry out into a circle big enough to cover the top of the basin, dampen the edges and put in position on the pudding, pinching the edges together to seal.
8. Seal well and cover with a double sheet of foil – pleated in the centre to allow room for expansion while cooking. Secure with string, and place it in a steamer over boiling water.
9. Steam for up to 5 hours, you may need to add more boiling water halfway through or possibly more often. There is a lot of leeway in this steaming time and different recipes give different steaming times. Delia Smith says 5 hours for Steak and kidney where as Mrs Beeton says 2.5 for a similar dish! One way to tell that it is cooked is when the pastry changes colour and goes from white to a sort of light golden brown. It is also hard to over steam a pudding so you can leave it bubbling away until you are ready.

This one is a steak and onion one cooked for 1.5 hours.

This sort of pastry can also be used as a topping for a baked meat pie and becomes quite a light crusty pastry when baked.

Savoury Pudding Filling options: steak and kidney pudding.

1 full amount of suet crust (see recipe above)
(450 grams/about 1 pound) Chuck steak
(225 grams/about 1/2 a pound) Ox kidney
1 medium-sized onion
2 teaspoons well-seasoned flour
splash of Worcestershire sauce

1. Chop the steak and kidney into fairly small cubes, toss them in seasoned flour, then add them to the pastry lined basin.
2. Pop the onion slices in here and there.
3. Add enough cold water to reach almost to the top of the meat and sprinkle in a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper.
4. Follow the rest of the instructions in the crust recipe to finish pudding.
5. Cook for at least 2.5 hours (Mrs Beeton) up to 5 hours (Delia Smith).

Sweet Pudding Options: Sussex Pond Pudding

1 amount of suet pastry (see recipe above)
(120 grams/4.2 ounces) Demerara Sugar
(120 grams/4.2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 large lemon

1. Cut the butter into small pieces and put half in the basin with half the sugar.
2. Prick the whole lemon (preferably one with a thin skin) all over, using a thick skewer.
3. Place on top of the butter and sugar in the basin.
4. Cover with the rest of the butter and sugar.
5. Finish building the pudding as per the pastry recipe.
6. Steam for 3 ½ hours, or longer (for a really tender lemon), adding more water if needed.
7. To serve, turn the pudding into a dish with a deep rim, when you slice into it the rich lemon sauce will gush out.
8. Make sure each person is served some of the suet crust, lemon and tangy luscious sauce.

Type 2 puddings – Steamed Suet Pudding, sponge type.

(100 grams/4 ounces) All-purpose flour
(1/4 teaspoon) salt
(1.5 teaspoons) Baking powder
(100 grams/4 ounces) breadcrumbs
(75 grams/3 ounces) Caster sugar
(75 grams/ 3 ounces) Shredded suet or suet substitute (i.e., Vegetable Suet, Crisco, Lard)
(1) large egg
(6 to 8 tablespoons) Cold milk

1. Sift flour, salt and baking powder into bowl.
2. Add breadcrumbs, sugar and suet.
3. Mix to a soft batter with beaten egg and milk
4. Turn into a buttered 1 litre/ 2pint pudding basin and cover securely with buttered greaseproof paper or aluminum foil.
5. Steam steadily for 2.5 to 3 hours
6. Turn out onto warm plate, Serve with sweet sauce to taste such as custard, caramel or a sweetened fruit sauce.

Spotted Dick
- Add 75g/ 3oz currants and 25g/1 oz of mixed chopped peel with the sugar.
Syrup or Treacle or Marmalade Pudding
– put 2 Tablespoons of golden syrup, treacle or marmalade at the bottom of the bowl before adding pudding mix.
My Fair Lady Pudding
– Add finely grated rind of 1 medium orange or lemon with the sugar.
Ginger Pudding
– replace the sugar with 100g/4oz of treacle, and add 1/2 tsp ground ginger.

Additional Information:


Suet substitutes:

Vegetable suet:

Delia Smith shows you how to make suet pastry with step-by-step photos here: (

Video of the whole process of making a suet crust pudding.

Video of making a steamed pudding:

A very good place to find recipes for many British puddings is the Pudding Club website

Steamed Pudding:

Mrs Beeton of course had many suet based puddings in her book and lists many of them. Some are described as boiled but nearly all can be steamed in a bowl in the same way as the full recipes I've give here including Staffordshire Fig Pudding: (, boiled raisin Pudding (, Boiled Rhubarb Pudding (, ginger pudding ( and several more.
Christmas Pudding

Bacon and Leek Pudding:

Butter based versions of steamed pudding

Found a vegan one I can't vouch for it but thought it might be a starting point for someone.

The whole of Mrs Beeton on line

and just the puddings

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekend (by Bet)

April for me is not as fulfilling as it is for Kat.  While Kat's birthdays are all in April, mine are all in May.  Both the boy and the girl gain a year in that month and we start to camp.  But mostly it is the month that students get kicked out of their homes, health issues for both students and their parents rear their ugly heads, seniors stress about leaving high school (showing stress in stupid and bizarre ways) and the AP Literature and Composition test is just around the corner.  Add to that the end of the grading period, parents who have finally discovered that perhaps they should be talking to both the teacher and their students, a garden isn't even in my field of vision.  Grass is my friend.  Grass is good.  Plus the husband will mow it and I don't have to think about it.

This weekend was filled with soccer, t-ball, laundry, paper grading and texting to students.  I didn't even have texting at the beginning of the year.  I am also simultaneously reading Earth Abides, All Creatures Great and Small, Into Thin Air, Between A Rock and A Hard Place, Kaffir Boy, Into the Wild and When the Spirit Catches You.  In my little classroom we are reading literature circle books, studying evolution, learning to have small group conversations that take you to new ideas, putting together significant speeches and writing ten page narrative essays.  I can't say that my home life is non-existant, but it definitely takes a back burner to work. Sigh.

Hope your weekend was filled with purposeful wandering and funfilled moments along with all the productivity necessary. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Catching up (by Kat)

April is always a challenge. We have so many family birthdays, my professional workload skyrockets, my mind is constantly wandering up into the hills, and the yard calls me out to play for hours on end.

It isn't a terrible kind of busy at all. I don't feel submerged, but just the opposite, super-enabled. I gulp April down, and May too, then finally find some moderation in June.

So, what's been going on? This past week Chirp-chirp became an official, certifiable, 100% teenage girl. Thirteen. I'm the mother of a teen. A teenager. I have a teenager. A teenager refers to me as her mom. "Mom!" says the teenager, referring to me.

How did this happen? Am I old now? Am I too old now? Am I now elder?

Huh. Creepy.

Moving on, Mr. Boom also celebrated another year gone by. Next to him, I'm a sweet young thing. Keeping that in mind makes the whole mother of a teenager thing a little less daunting. A little.

So, besides the obligatory partying, we moved a pile of dirt I scored for free into the raised garden beds, added composted steer manure and chicken straw, roto-tilled the whole mess together, raked the beds smooth, and planted the beginnings of this year's garden.

The free soil came from a newly met neighbor. As I was walking home last week, he was in the process of digging out a crawlspace under his ca. 1909 home. I paused for a moment, gathered my courage, then walked up and asked if he had a place to dump all the dirt. He said yes, he did, but if my place was closer he'd be happy to bring it over. When he found out that I only lived three blocks away, the deal was set! In a sense, the soil is dead. It (literally!) hasn't seen the light of day in over 100 years. However, this also means that the soil is very clean. That's a nice assurance to have when you're putting it into your vegetable beds!

A good portion of this weekend was also devoted to the ponds. One pond developed a leak, so we had to remove all the water, remove the rocks from the edging, place a new liner in, and reset all the rocks. We've discovered we're not quite as strong as we were when we originally placed those rocks in about five years ago. I blame it squarely on having a teenager.

What else...oh right! We built a new little chicken pen for the little hens right next to the big chicken pen wherein reside the larger hens.

We built a little solarium for them out of scrap wood and a scavenged storm window. In here, they can escape from the wind and enjoy temperatures a little higher than the natural clime.

The chicks are staying out for a good portion of the day now, but still spend the night in the downstairs bathtub, under the heat-lamp, contentedly chirping away. The new pen butts up against the old pen so that the old hens and the young hens will get to know each other a little bit before the ultimate co-mingling occurs. So far, so good.

Finally, we rescued this poor little white-crowned sparrow who ensnared himself in the netting covering the chicken pen. He was quite calm during the entire rescue mission, and even regaled us with song after the operation was complete.

What did you do this weekend?

Did any of you get a nap in there for me?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Homemade cannelloni with homemade fail-mozzarella (by Kat)

The hardest part of homemade cannelloni with fail-mozzarella is spelling the title correctly.

I blithely went about making some mozzarella a few weeks ago. Everything was going well--too well. That's always the warning, isn't it?

At the last moment, my entire batch of mozzarella became ricotta. Well, no. It was not quite ricotta. My dairy product landed squarely between the realms of ricotta and mozzarella. Think grainy mozzarella, or stringy mozzarella. Either way you have a tasty mouthful of strange dairy texture.

So, when life gives you fail-mozzarella, make cannelloni. (That won't work on a t-shirt, will it? I need a better slogan, obviously).

In a large bowl, dump your pile of cheese,
add herbs from last summer's garden,
then crack in an egg if your hen will give you one.

Stir the whole thing up pretty well.

Make yourself some pasta dough, and roll it out nice and thin.
Cut into rectangle shapes, boil a few minutes, then cool.

Slather the cheese onto the (cooled) pasta.
(owey, owey, hot! hOt! )

Dump spaghetti sauce on top, and pile on the Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350 F until it's bubbly and you're so hungry
you just can't wait any longer.

When people say yummy and inquire about the type of cheese you used,
smile knowingly and reply...


Monday, April 19, 2010

Asparagus! (by Kat)

A week ago, it was snowing.

This weekend...this popped up!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Weekend walk in the woods (by Kat)

Last Saturday, we took a walk in the woods. This road goes up and up and up and up.

These false hellebore (Veratrum sp.) were poking up through the snow.

Belligerently, they yelled at us from their poky little noses:


I wish I had Mr. Boom stand next to this log to add some scale.
The stump was nearly up to my chest.

More false hellebore.
These had convinced the snow to move on,
and were reveling in their sunlit little spot of forest floor.
(I'm not anthropomorphizing... I heard them for reals.)

Suddenly, we came up this site.

This is what a bear does in the woods in the spring.

And here's his or her view.
Not bad, eh?

Two hours later, we were back in the rig, heading back toward home.

I'd like to add this scenery to my bathroom.

Why should the bears have it all to themselves?

Bread (by Bet)

Last night, after work, while my daughter made cake for her daddy's birthday, I formed another loaf of bread.  Then while we were at soccer practice the dough sat and did the magic it does.  When I got home I put it in the over while we ate dinner.  In exactly 40 minutes out came another perfect loaf. 

My girl is in love with this bread.  The boy has yet to try it.  The daddy thinks it is an acquired taste and will work at getting used to it. 

I need to mix another batch tonight.  If I can come up with a system this just may work. 

The garden is whole other story though. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Magic (by Bet)

I've created magic.  That is the name for the bread that came out of my oven 45 minutes ago. 

Sunday I spent five minutes measuring and mixing, by hand, the dough.  I watched it rise for the next two hours.  It created a significant amount of heat, I might add.  I could feel it through the bowl an hour and a half after mixing and could see the condensation it was creating on the loosely fitted saran wrap.  It went into the outside fridge. 

Yesterday it went neglected as I went to work, watched the boys first T-ball game and dealt with a bitten dog ear.

This morning I got up at 2:40.  Shaped the dough in exactly forty seconds and put it in the pan.  There was no flour or mess to try to scrape off my bread board.  I then read for the next hour and forty-five minutes.  It went in the oven with a pan of hot water.  Forty-five minutes later I popped it out of the oven and it slid out of the pan.  No loosening, mess. 

The pan is spotless, the bowl in which I mixed the dough and let the dough rise in went back into the fridge.  Total dish count:  one scale measuring bowl, one liquid measuring cup and a bread pan, all of which could have been wiped out with a towel and put away. 

I just sliced the loaf open and the crumb is uniform.  The taste is mild and light.  The crust is thin and crunchy. 

Lets review.  Five minute mixing, forty second forming.  Bread.  I still have enough dough for at least one more two-pound loaf. 

When this loaf is done I will make the other one.  This time I will let it rise longer as I think the outside fridge is a lot colder than the inside one and the loaf did not rise as high as I would like.

I might never buy bread again.  But I do need to go to work.  Sigh.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wet Bread Dough (by Bet)

Today I went out and found vital wheat gluten on a shelf in Fred Meyer.  Then I came home and tried to nap.  Instead I worked with the boy on learning to read.  This is always a battle of the wills, meaning that there is a chance I am actually teaching myself how to read. 

Then I fed everyone the ever-so-nutritious macaroni from a box, hot dogs and chips.  Afterwards they went out to run through the sprinkler (no, it's not warm enough, but they're young) and I had a small moment of peace.

Which I then went and ruined by starting the bread making portion of the day.  This is when I learned that weighing your ingredients is actually faster than measuring them.  Who knew?  I mixed up a batch of whole wheat bread in less than five minutes.  No proofing and no kneading required.  It is a wet method of making bread.  Then I set it aside.  After two hours I will put it in the refridgerator and make a loaf tomorrow morning.  The dough lasts in the refridgerator for up to fourteen days.  We'll see.  But I can tell you that it took twenty minutes to clean my kitchen afterwards (remember the macaroni?).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My New Adventure (by Bet)

Today I am embarking on a new adventure.  Hopefully it is one that will lead us away from the grocery store and towards better eating.  First, let me warn you that I am not a gardener or a baker in the way that Kat is.  I tend to bake/cook six standard things fairly well and kill all plants that come into my possession.

But I have been waiting patiently for two books from the library for three months.  The first is Healthy  Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  The second is All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  I got tired of waiting and begun my journey with a trip to the bookstore.  I brought them home, began reading and took a nap. 

After eating a snack and instructing my boy that he could go up to the shed to set a trap for my girl and her friend with the goo he found outside, I am writing this. 

I am hoping to make bread on a regular basis and grow our own garden this year.  I am going to keep myself accountable by writing very short entries on my adventures.  Don't expect pictures.  I am very impatient with the camera/computer system I own right now.  This is evidenced by the fact that the husband, the boy, the girl and I went on a vacation to ski at Breckenridge and I did not take a single photo.  Not one.  But it was beautiful.  If you don't care about my picture-less adventure, but love Kat, just skip over me.  I won't mind. 

Tomorrow I am off to buy Vital Wheat Gluten, which I could of done in the space of my nap, but I would have had to get back in the car.  I have never heard of this ingredient, but am confident in the power of the American Supermarket. 

I am also going to hope that my noble husband will build my boxes for my weed-less square foot garden.  Yes, I could do it myself, but why?  There is a lot more to the gardening story, but you will have to wait for it to slowly dribble out.

Triskelion of kitties

I fell in love with the trislekion when visiting France the summer between 9th and 10th grades. I was lucky enough to befriend a girl at school who was born in France, but lived in the States. That summer, her mom took me along on their annual trip home for the summer.

We spent one glorious week up in Brittany, and I have always wanted to return. The triskel is an important cultural icon to the Celts, and signifies three forces. Which three forces? Pretty much any three you want. Sometimes earth, wind, and sea; sometimes mind, body, and spirit.

In this case we have destruction, mayhem, and allergens. My sweet triskelion of kitties.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A toast to you

It's Friday evening and I'm sitting at my desk with a glass of Beaujolais in hand, wondering why I haven't posted one. single. time. this past week.

It's been a hard week, but not that hard. No deaths, no illness, nothing over the top. But everything has been struggly this past week.

Struggly? My blog, my vocabulary!

I made some good food and some great food and some bad food for Easter at my in-laws. I took great photos during the process, but didn't get any photos of two of the three completed items. The one item I did get a "finished" shot of tasted terrible. You can't tell that from the photo, of course, but I would know. Oh, how do I know. Is there anything worse than a room full of people politely picking over the visually stunning but crappy dessert you made for Easter dinner? Yes, there is. What's worse is finding out that your mother-in-law's mother-in-law (did you follow that?) is famous (so why didn't anyone tell me this?!!!) for her version of the dessert. Mille Feuille, aka Napoleons, were my Easter Waterloo.

Let's see, this past week it has also snowed every day. I really love my job because I get to be outside a good portion of the time between April and October. But when you're lugging tractor batteries through the wilds and the snow starts falling as you're wiring up loggers and sensors and you discover your chest-waders don't seem to fit anymore (they shrank, I swear!) and now it's hailing and what else could go wrong and then you realize you forgot that one part you needed to complete the circuit and then you think you might have a tick crawling up the center of the back you might just want to start crying a little bit but you can't 'cause scientists don't cry, well, then, you might not like your job so much, just then. Just sayin'.

I did get a nice cheery note this week from my parents. They wanted to know when their granddaughter's birthday is (or was?)... Said grandchild responded to said e~mail. Said parents of mine then sent the e~mail back to said daughter with spelling corrections and asked for said daughter to please write more often.

And, it's snowing again...

More Beaujolais, please. 'Cause y'all know I need a little more "whine," right?

Company coming in the morning. Need to finish cleaning the house.

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Where is my milk from? (by Kat)

I found this link a while back, surfing the web with StumbleUpon.

I often reminisce about the dairy where we used to buy milk in glass bottles with paper lids, then later on green foil lids, straight from the same family members/employees who milked the cows. You had to remove the lids just right, or they wouldn't last through the use of that half-gallon. Then mom would be mad...

Most of the time when my mom went into the dairy building to make the purchase, I'd stand outside petting the cows. I still remember their beautiful eyes, long lashes, and uncanny ability to stick their long speckled tongues all the way up the sides of their faces and deep into their nostrils. I never managed to get my own tongue to perform acrobatics anywhere near as cool as that, and so my awe for their prowess lasted for years.

Sadly, the dairy became a housing development just few months before Chirp-chirp was born.

Looking back further, to when we lived in Solvang, I remember the milk actually being delivered to the door. Incredible times. I wasn't very strong then, but I'd carry the bottles into the kitchen one by one, leaving the carrier by the door.

These days, we purchase our milk and cream at the grocery store. But where does it actually come from? Who knows!

Oh, wait, now we do!

My milk is processed (with consistency) about 190 miles from my home. I wonder where it came from before that? I wonder if those cows have the talented tongues our local cows did? And do little girls get to pet them...ever?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Miscellaneous Morning (by Kat)

We woke up this morning to an unwelcome sight out our bedroom window. Those little johnny-jump-ups in the new banner? They're under a half inch of snow now. More snow is falling, and the weatherman says we're getting up to three or more inches today.

In other news, the little chicks are growing at a phenomenal rate. Here they are on day six. Their itsy bitsy little wing feathers have replaced the down. Tiny little tail feathers are beginning to protrude from their nethersides. They mess up their box faster than we can clean up after them.

I'm very glad we decided to get these little chicks. They're a sign of spring that the weather can't subdue. I keep running back into the music room to peek at them, just to assure myself that warmer weather is coming (back). Invariably, I go to pick one up, and then I have to pick up the others so that no chick is left behind.

I'm supposed to be starting Easter Sunday's dessert, making this week's bread, tending to laundry, and that sort of thing. I also have a gallon of whole milk in the fridge to make a batch of mozzarella cheese with. I bought the milk a week ago, so I have to do it today before the milk goes bad.

E-gads, I guess I need to add snow shoveling to the list.

Hard to believe we were at Butchart Gardens less than one week ago, looking across this warm, colorful, beautiful expanse. Bumblebees, sweet wafts of flower blossoms, rafts of bulbs in bloom...

Yeah, I can spell procrastination!