Friday, February 27, 2009

Psalm 119: 54 ~Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage ~
Shabbat shalom :)

Little Changes, Self Cleaning Ovens that Can't, and What's Making Noise in My Kitchen??

It's time to move the furniture around again...

and let's see how I do or don't like the new web palette and graphics. The header's from a favorite pic of a peacock that I played with in the photo program a bit.

It's been a long week, and we're both tired and soooo glad to be together again tonight. I'm refreshing a few things in the house and getting some simple food together before we crash -- I want to have everything nice when Jack gets off work.

I've heard something lurking in the kitchen...or pantry...or...somewhere. It sounds bigger than a beetle. Maybe a mouse? If so, it's a first.

But I can deal with a mouse.

But if it's a snake, you can find me back in Tennessee, and making the commute from Florida to there in record time. We have a lot of choices of unwanted visitors here in Florida, and insects or mice I can deal with. But snakes...BELONG OUTSIDE.

Maybe it's a bunny? A possum? (I know, here we go, I'm in total denial) A raccoon? (nah, I know what they sound like, with that little "chirrrrrr" sound) A little lost kitten??

This means only one thing...spring cleaning must commence. But not till "It" has been found.

This means the stove must be unplugged, carted outside, plugged into an extension cord, and put on Self Clean till it's pristine on the inside. Why? (What do you mean, isn't this how EVERYone cleans their ovens?? haha!)

Well a certain SOMEone who helped (term loosely interpreted) when selecting the oven for this house, decided to buy a self-cleaning oven. Normally, that would be delightful, and handy. Normal meaning if you have a full wall, not a half wall. Or 3/4 wall or whatever it's called when you have a wall that doesn't go all the way to the ceiling because it's supposed to help make the area look open so it only goes up to about 2 feet from the ceiling, for decorative purposes. Therefore, if you put an OVEN on that wall, you cannot VENT it through the wall upwards through the ceiling (unless you want the pipe to show). So you get this vent thingy that circulates the oven air through the vent thingy that goes right over your stovetop, through a carbon filter. HOWEVER, do not test the limits of the carbon filter-thingy by trying to vent an entire self-cleaning oven cycle of fumes through it. It will not like it, and will protest by filling your house with roiling clouds of acrid smoke you will only brave long enough to turn the oven OFF and run like heck with a towel over your face to the great outdoors, kicking yourself all along that you forgot all about the fact it DOESNT VENT THROUGH THE ROOF like NORMAL ovens.

And you ponder the mysteries and ironies of life, such as the fact that it's commonly supposed that if you just went ahead and cleaned the inside of your self-cleaning oven the CONVENTIONAL way (by hand) it supposedly is bad for self-cleaning ovens and "ruins them."

And THAT is why you can choose to baffle and amaze your neighbors by running an extension cord to the driveway and getting a dolly and maneuvering your self-cleaning oven out for all to see, in full view, AND call the fire department to let them know not to worry if they happen to get any strange calls about somebody's oven sitting in front of a house smoking for about an hour.

Better yet, maybe I can charge admission...? :)

I dare not think of what lurks under that stove. I am now approaching the kitchen to find whatever lurks. No worries...I'm armed with a broom and one of Jack's steel-toed work boots. I hope it's a runaway kitten, lost puppy, a hamster making The Incredible Journey, or just my goldfish having learned how to throw gravel against his fish bowl.

Because if it's something slithery, or a palmetto bug that thinks it's a pony.....Tennessee, here I come!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

5 Minute-A-Day Bread: First Try

Sweet success...this bread, I love! 5 Minute-a-Day Bread, I love you! Jeff Hertberg and Zoe Francois, authors of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, I love you, and now I shall go and buy your book!

You see, I found so much mention of this great and easy bread all over blogs and the internet, it was inevitable and I had to try it...finally. The "Artisan" part was a hook, but the real clincher was the "5 Minutes."

But the "No Knead" was what initially threw me off...

You see, I have a confession to make. It's sorry, lame, and ugly, but here it is...
I never liked No Knead Bread. I had a BBNKE (Bad, bad no-knead experience), and it took me a while to recover. I must beg humble apologies of Jim Lahey, the mastermind of the No Knead phenomenon.

Yes, I'm talking the dummy-proof bread that nearly every American now makes in their dutch ovens with, of course, no prior kneading.

I tried it, and it was a catastrophic flop. It's all my own fault...I must have done something wrong. And because I immediately moved on to loaf breads in search of the Great American Farm Bread Loaf, I never went back to try to correct my dismal failure.

And I do mean dismal. (Unless you're in the market for a reallllyyyy effective doorstop) I mean, you don't want to have to go register every time you want to bake bread, but the loaf I managed to turn out when trying the No Knead Bread should have required a license to was surely a deadly weapon.

Anyway, I'll return to the No Knead someday, and give it a better try. Till then, I'll be using this 5 Minute-a-Day bread because it actually seems to be Robbyn-proof...and it turned out to be delicious :)

You can access the basic boule recipe at the link above, and it's only 4 ingredients long...yeast, kosher salt, flour, water. You mix it in a roomy container and then cover. After an initial rise you can go ahead and cook with it or store it in the fridge for later access for up to two weeks. I've done this with cookie dough before, and really enjoy having stash of dough ready to scoop and pop into the oven when needed. With this bread dough, it only needs a 40 minute rise and into the oven it goes!

It's nice that there's no kneading necessary...everything's mixed with a spoon till fully incorporated. In fact, this is a fairly wet dough.

It took me a minute to get the hang of it, but you have to cut off a grapefruit-sized lump and form it into a ball, which is easy. The only tricky part was that it needs a good pile of flour and some floury hands to plop it into so the surface can be formed lightly without sticking all to your hands. Or you'll find your fingers stuck together in some breadmaker's version of the Swamp Thing... Above is a picture of the dough lightly formed into ball (boule) shape, and liberally dusted with flour. It's perched atop a generous layer of cornmeal, on an upside-down cookie sheet, my southern girl substitute for a pizza peel. While this rises, you have a baking stone preheating in a 450F oven on the middle rack, and you situate the bottom part of a broiler pan on the bottom rack. When it's risen 40 minutes, you slash the top of the dough ball a few times with a serrated knife, about 1/4" deep, to allow for expansion during cooking. Then you try to gracefully slide the whole unit onto the heated peel. Then you put a cupful of hot tap water into the broiler pan and quickly close the oven door on the whole shebang so that the bread crust will have its own nice little sauna as it bakes to a crispy exterior, and wonderful soft, lofty interior.

I had to remove the baking stone from the oven (with oven mitts), onto the stovetop (since I didn't want my raw dough to plop accidentally somewhere off-target in the maw of my very hot oven) before going further, then tilt my cookie sheet while getting a little momentum going via a metal spatula...and then the dough slid pretty well onto the baking stone. And into the oven it went to cook for 30 minutes. Here's the finished product, yay!!

And then it went on to do its disappearing act...

...only I think my hips just discovered where it went ;-)

For anyone who's followed my blog for a while, we had to make a big cutback in the amount of bread and flour we eat on a daily basis. We've done pretty well at that.

I have noticed that there are times we were buying a loaf of bread here and there at the supermarket to use for sandwiches, toast, etc on a limited basis. Even though our consumption of flour has gone way down, I wasn't pleased to be paying store prices even sporadically for something as basic as bread, that's so easy to make at home for so much less cost. Plus, there are no preservatives when I make it myself.

So this is what we're doing. I'm glad to have a recipe now that I can make as needed and store in the fridge in the interim. That's what we do with our kombucha (we bottle some for the fridge and store the rest at room temp), and it works very well for us. I'm delighted to find this versatile bread, and I'll pass it down to my daughter and anyone who's not likely to begin with a bread that needs kneading. I'll still make a good farm loaf now and then, but I'm delighted that this one will fill the bill for pizza dough, breadsticks, sandwiches, and very easily.

Yum! :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Turkey Thyme

Please excuse the naked poultry...there were no fig leaves available.

This is one of the fat young birds we purchased loads of when they went on sale during the holidays in 2008...and they still cook up great!

Of course, there came a point where we had a hard time saying the word Turkey, thinking of turkey sandwiches and all the many other incarnations for leftover turkey meat, even though noone around here seems to tire of cranberries.

But the herbs survived the freezes (we won't mention all the plants that didn't) and the rosemary was too good to pass up (it's actually beginning to bloom!)...the thyme sprigs were dried in bouquets still hanging upside down from my impromptu drying rack (a metal 3-fold standing screen), and begging to be used. Is there anyone out there who doesn't like the scent of rosemary and thyme?mmmm

I don't have a roasting pan or anything big enough for a turkey....note to self NEXT year if we decide to re-stock the freezer, "Get Pan..."

Lest anyone think cooking a turkey is rocket science, a big thawed turkey CAN be wedged securely upside down into a stockpot, doused with a cup of water, massaged with sea salt, tickled with garlic, adorned with herbs, sealed with foil, and baked till fork-tender at 300F...... to great success. All while you run errands with the hub and then come home to the house smelling like Thanksgiving dinner.....ahhh :)

Some day maybe I can say each of those ingredients was raised and nurtured by our very hands on our very own farm. But till then, I'm happy the herbs came from only a few feet from our back door, and that the sale meat we bought 4 months ago is still pulling its weight in trimming back the weekly food budget considerably.

Small steps.

Just a reminder to myself that even those DO add up, though...and are sometimes delicious :)

Hey, Little Salad Bar!

I've been playing in the salad bar garden!

Can you tell how many different types of greens are in these thinnings and trimmings?

There's mustard, two types of green leaf lettuces, one type red leaf lettuce, radish greens, komatsuma (sp?), red-stemmed chard thinnings, and rocket (arugula). All of them are new to me, and they're all from my sowing a few weeks ago. I like having a salad just outside my back door!

We're not weighing our produce this year. I don't have the scale and we're slow to do EVERYthing, it seems, but my first priority in planting something on a small scale was to get some greens into our diet, pronto. There's really no reason for us not to, since they're really easy to care for (so far that's been the case, at least)

This is our second harvest from these bins...I harvested a good-sized grocery sack of mustard and komatsuna (sp??) thinnings last week, and we have a little leaf lettuce left in the fridge from the volunteers we keep finding in the ground around where we had some going last season and let it go to seed.

If you have advice, I'd love to hear from voices of experience...

I've thinned the mustard, but am not sure if mustard can be used as one of those cut-and-come-again greens when small? The other greens mentioned above are ones I'm wondering about whether to grow a few to maturity and then harvest, or to give them "haircuts", leave them more thickly planted, and keep harvesting the resprouting leaves?

Even if we don't know what we're doing yet, I'm so pleased at the flavors and ease with which these grew!

A few things so far that I've noticed --

1. The mustards that stay in the sun are going gangbusters...the others are lagging behind.

2. All these plants have weathered three freezes and weather in the 20s and were not killed back.

3. I planted a big horseradish root. Maybe I should have cut it into pieces first and planted each of them? It is now putting out leaves...

4. Rocket/arugula had an odd smell compared to the other greens when cut.

5. I love the feeling of the sun baking my back while I poise myself on an upturned bucket and putter away in the greens.

6. The nasturtiums were a no-show, except for one little upstart...I tucked a few sunflowers in here and there, too...may transplant them (can sunflowers be transplanted?)

That's all for now. I'm baking a turkey, which will translate into some calabaza soup, stock, curry soup, lunchmeat and frozen meat, and maybe some experiments making turkey sausage.

I also hope to get some almond & honey granola going, replenish the kombucha kegs, make some homemade vinegar-and-rosemary kitchen cleaner, and maybe..maybe...make my own laundry powder (after procrasinating it now for oh, TWO years...) :)

There are other recipes I want to try, but I have to go run errands and hope to kidnap my sweetie for the afternoon (and if that happens, will any of the above get done?? ah, I have to enjoy my time with him when I can get it!)

And maybe a fudge pie is in our future for the evening....

...or not. Maybe just yerba buena tea and some great movie/snuggling-in time in the living room..

Shall return I know now when...hope you're having a great start to your week! :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Prodigal Returns...

...only not just yet! ;-)

I'll be back shortly.

I'm regrouping, testing new recipes, getting some household things organized, moving my outdoor plants back and forth and back and forth since the weather doesn't remember how to not FREEZE periodically.

I may or may not change the look of the blog....any suggestions? I'm a creature of may stay the same, dunno!

Plants must be planted, meals cooked, finances continually kept in the black, job jobbed, and hopefully some cream of an idea or two shall rise to the forefront in the midst.

I'm having a love/hate relationship with my computer. There is so much living going on, and sometimes I just don't want to stop and journal. In fact, it's a funny mental processes are moving further and further away from "necessary" conveniences, and I'm getting used to the screaming silences....which now are quite full stretches of thought and contemplation, or of just listening.

I'm finding I quite enjoy the listening and sometimes just don't want to SAY anything. I think our culture has a problem being still or un-entertained. I'm now infatuated with hearing all the things I missed when I was "too busy." I marvel more and more how being without a TV has de-programmed Jack and me in many ways we didn't realize. I'm wondering if I'm flirting with pulling the plug on other things as well.....and how we'd fare.

My guess is that we're congenial hermits.

If you see smoke signals coming from our neck of the woods....well, suburbs might mean we just deep-sixed our computer and cellphones.

Ah, to dream ........ ;-)

But in the meantime, I'll be back. Sometime.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chocolate Alert

...if you need your fix, this one's easy as pie! It's today's entry over at Women Not Dabbling in Normal, where I posted one of my family's Go-To standby recipes.

I haven't been posting here much, mainly because I've been hiding under a rock. Can't explain it, but every now and then, it's what I do.

Hope to be back out in the light of day soon, with some constructive things and updates for here. I hope you're doing well!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Mom Song

This was forwarded to me today in email. Thank you, T, for the laugh...this is sooooo funny!! :) Ring a bell for anyone out here?


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just For Fun

I saw this over at Angie's at Children in the Corn, and thought it would be fun :) Here's mine...


It's harder than you think!! Here is what you are supposed to do...and please don't spoil the fun...copy and paste into your own note, type in your answers and tag a bunch of people - including me.
Where is your cell phone...........................shelf
Your hair.............................................silvering
Your father..........................................dunno
Your favorite
Your dream last night..............................fuzzy
Your favorite drink.................................tea
Your dream/
The room you are
Your fear..............................................bereavement
Where do you want to be in 6 years..............Jack
One of your wish list
Where you grew up................................mississippi
The last thing you
What are you wearing.............................cotton
Your TV...............................................none
Your pets.............................................wish
Your computer.......................................blogs
Your life..............................................grateful
Your mood............................................reflective
Missing someone.....................................sometimes
Your car.............................................lemonzilla
Favorite store......................................feed
Your favorite color.................................depends
When is the last time you laughed.............lately
Last time you cried................................lately
People who email me...........................friends
One of my favorite foods......................ethnic
Place I would rather be right
People I think will respond...................anyone :)

Something Seedy...

Homemade seed packets are easy to assemble and are a lot of fun to make! For more, I wrote about it today at Women Not Dabbling in Normal...
Happy seed saving and recycling fun!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Reminder to self...
Here is one of my sunflowers coming up in the lettuces. That's how different I feel sometimes.
I love how my plants nurture me, whether in watching them spring to life, interact with the world around them, shelter other worlds beneath their leaves and roots, or nourish and grace my family's meals.
So very much beauty in so few square inches...
I thank God for the greening of my life through so many ordinary perfections

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

I Want to Know Mrs. Adelia!

Mystery solved!

And you're realllllyyyyy going to love this :)

Last year I followed a blog link to another blog where the author had written a post called The Queen of Frugal: Lessons from Butterberry Farm. Which one is the greater hook...the term Queen of Frugal, or any place named Butterberry Farm??

(happy sigh!!)

The post was the first in a series where the author wrote about a woman she met (at her Farmer's Market) named Mrs. Adelia, who, it turns out, is truly a frugal queen. You have to read the post there to understand, but she and her family live SO truly simply, but very very well. And you won't believe how little actual money they spend. It had the ring of authenticity of someone who's BEEN living a way I am headed towards but still find elusive in many ways.

I hope you enjoy discovering Mrs. Adelia yourself. Here is Kendra's Blog entitled Handprints on the Wall...a wonderful blog, and here is where Kendra begins her series about Mrs. Adelia entitled Lessons from Butterberry Farm. If you want to read it chronologically, start at the bottom of that page at the oldest entry, and read upwards.

Enjoy!! :)