Thursday, January 26, 2012

Planning the west side

Well, the west side of my home's yard is nearly bare. My challanges have been that this side of the house gets only late day light, as well as all the home's wiring and pipes come into the house here. This leave it near impossible to know how deep is safe to dig. So I haven't touched it. I can't get close to the house either for fear of hitting the obvious wires coming out of the ground. Today, I played with some photos and came up with a plan for privacy, won't have to touch along side the house and will give the west side of the house its very own special touches. I know its rough looking, but it was a quick play around in photoshop.

I'm going to see what my husband thinks, chose the varieties of shrubs and flowers and price everything before its a decision. Fencing is just NOT an affordable or attractive option to me. Just thought I'd share the rough draft. The only for sure will be a Hydrangea I rooted last year that I needed to find a spot for. Its small now, but in a few years it will be a great size, and needs a place of honor!


Monday, January 16, 2012

I'm such a sucker for FUZZY!

Took the daughter to our first livestock auction yesterday. Picked up some more silkie chickens, and had my heart set on filling up another coop with some new standard size hens.

Instead I was tricked by the kids and fell in love with little Mini Rex Rabbits instead. We bought both, but immediately found another home for the little girl since it turned out they were a pair. We weren't looking to have more baby bunnies though, so we kept the male and the little one named him Mr. Oreo!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bitter Sweet Marmalade

I don't know about you, but either marmalade is TOO bitter for me, or TOO sweet. A good balance is what my palette prefers. So in messing around over the years (and multiple failures) I finally got a good set, good flavor orange marmalade. The secret.... TANGERINES!

So first you get the following to balance the flavor.

1 Naval Orange (Bitter, but juicy so only 1. If you perfect not bitter do all Cece or Valencia Oranges for this.)
3 Cece Oranges
3 Tangerines
6 Cup Sugar

Slice all SUPER thin and seed.

Added Slices and Juices into a pot w/ 8 cups of water. Bring to a rolling boil for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and add 6 cups of sugar. Stir until dissolved and cover. Allow to sit overnight or at least 12 hours.

Next day place back on heat, bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 2 hours.

Bring back to a boil and reduce to medium to medium high heat. You need 20-30 minutes on the stove and do not temp get over 220 degrees (use a candy thermometer for this).

When temp has held for at least a minute, check your marmalade for sheeting on a spoon. If you don't know what this is or how to check that, simply put a little plate in the freezer and drink a few drops of the marmalade on the cold plate. You want the marmalade to stiffen, push with your finger and look for the top of the drop to ripple or have a skim on top that is gel like. If it gets really hard quickly, stir in a cup of water to the mixture or your marmalade will be too hard. If its still syrupy/runny double check its at 220 and then cook for another 2-4 minutes and check again until it sets.

Ladle into sterilized jars, place lids on top and waterbath for 10 minutes to seal your jars.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fresh Baguettes

Oh how I love the crusty crunchy bread. For dipping in soups, pasta sauce or topping with my favorite cheese spreads. I also have bread baked fresh weekly. Its a healthier option and more cost effective too. I've made many attempts over the years and never quite got it right it. Everyone who listed recipes gave tips and tricks and I always seemed to miss the one where the bread got dark and the crust was hard like I love it.

Now I have it down and I want to share with you.

Crusty Baguettes:

1 3/4 Cup warm water
1 Packet Dry active yeast (not the rapid rise stuff)
1 Tbsp honey
4 Cups Bread Flour
**Mix first 3 ingredients in bowl and set aside 10-15 minutes to active yeast**

When the yeast is active and bubbly add 2 cups of bread flour in a stand mixer and combine. Add a 3rd cup now and 1 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp Kosher salt. Salt is important to flavor, but if you add it too soon it will attack the yeast and you won't get a rise in your bread. Now, depending on your humidity levels this can be tricky. Add flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough absorbs all the flour, but is still slightly sticky to the tough. You do not want dry dough, you want slight sticky dough. So you may use up to 4 cups to get this texture, or you may use less. I'm in a humid part of the country so I have used the 4 full cups on rainy days or high humidity periods. Not always though.

Now you have your dough together, add a little olive oil (1 tsp) to the bowl and place the dough back in the bowl rolling it around in the oil so the dough and the inside of the bowl is coated. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise until double in size. About 1-2 hours.

When the first rise is done you want to turn the dough out onto a counter, either extremely lightly floured or not floured at all. Stretch your dough into a square shape. No pounding! Then fold in half one direction and then fold the right side to the middle, then the left side to the middle to create a square shaped ball. Put back into the bowl, cover and allow to rise another hour.

Pour dough onto counter again and cut evenly into 4 pieces. I then take the pieces with my fingers one at a time and tuck under where you see the cut from the knife. After that, I pull and stretch it with my fingers so the dough is as long as I can get it. Do not roll like a rolling pin fashion, this won't work.

Place your long baguette dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and preheat over to 500 degrees. YES, 500 degrees! Then cover your baguettes with plastic wrap again. This is the last rise, and it will be done when your oven reaches 500.

Now for a trick. Have a handy spray bottle filled with water on hand. This will do wonders for your crust!

Time to put in the oven. You are going to lightly spray your bread with the water, and spray the sides of you oven with it to before you close the oven door. Set timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, spray your oven with the water again. Set timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, reduce oven temp to 425 degrees and spray the bread and the oven for the last time. Set timer for 10 minutes.

Now your baguette will be dark brown and with a hard crust. You can tap on your crust and it should sound hollow so you know its done. Let cool for about 10 minutes or more before cutting. Store unused bread in the freezer and defrost on another day for fresh tasting bread. I like to pop mine back in the oven at 350 for 8 minutes right before serving so it tastes fresh baked and warm.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Stuffed Crescents French Toast

My daughter and I collaborated last year to create this recipe of the Pillsbury Bake off. Sadly, it was not chosen, but it sure is good so I'm going to share it.

Ingredients You'll Need:
1 Can Pillsbury crescents (the classic triangles)
1/4 Cup of your choice of Jam - May we suggest Fogl's Blackberry Fruit Topping
4 Tbsp (4 oz) Cream Cheese
1 Large Egg
2 Tbsp Butter
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup

You can do this on a preheated skillet on the stove top, but I prefer a counter top griddle. We set ours at 325 degrees.

Beat your egg in a bowl with 1 Tbsp of water and set aside. Open up your crescents and lay them out on wax paper to work with them easily. You want to pinch together the triangles so you make 4 equal rectangles. Like below.

Once you have your rectangles made, add a dollop of cream cheese to the right side of the dough, and then a dollop of jam. Its going to be able 1 TBSP of each per dough section.

Once you get the filling in, brush eggs with beaten egg, fold the dough over on top of it and fold the edges over and pinch. This will seal in the filling. Pick up your sealed dough with a spatula so it doesn't fall apart. Brush top of your soon to be french toast with more egg wash. Make sure you melt that butter on your cooking service to prevent sticking and ensure browning!

Top to slap those babies on the cook top! They take about 2 minutes on each side to brown and puff up. They will be more uniform in shape as they cook.

I make to egg wash both sides on the griddle top. If you need extra cooking time, you can cook one minute on each side, then egg wash again and cook 1 - 2 more minutes. After both sides are brown how to like, use the spatula to rotate your french toast onto their sides and brown the edges to ensure the dough is fully cooked through.

When all 6 edges are brown, about 5-6 minutes total per french toast... you'll have 4 beautiful golden stuffed french toasts. DELICIOUS!

Top as you prefer... maple syrup... fruit... toasted nuts... powdered sugar.... WHATEVER!