Ginger syrup time!

My sodas have been getting pretty popular with the people lately so it is time to step up my game. I had been making syrup in batches of 3-4 cups at a time, now i’m making it in batches of 12-15 cups. Time to get real and buy a pressurized keg to make 10 gallon batches!

Black Peppercorn Ginger Syrup getting strained before one last flash boil

Crab Cakes and Marinated Summer Squash

Two days ago I had my teeth cleaned by my awesome hygienist and we were talking about gardening and being a modern homesteader. I brought up that I had been making sodas lately. She asked me what flavors I create and I replied with my favorite, the Black Peppercorn Ginger soda, because I love Whiskey Gingers. Well, just so it happens she loves Whiskey Gingers too!! I told her I would drop some sodas by her house because she only lives a few blocks away so she can try out some non-store bought organic homemade soda, and in my opinion, the best soda!

I brought her some sodas later that day and we ended up hanging out for a little bit. I met her awesome husband and was invited into their nice home. Our dogs sort of got along, but you know how that goes if you have a little monster of your own. As I was leaving, her husband, who is a commercial crab fishermen, offered me some crab to take with me. Oh, my, god, I LOVE CRAB. I was so happy, but I kept my cool (I think?) and I was on my way with some amazingly fresh crab. What a great trade!

So here is what happened with the crab and summer squash I had just harvested:

Diana made the crab cakes so I don’t take credit for those, I just helped get all the meat out and made the squash.

Crab Cake ingredients:
Crab, Organic Bread Crumbs, Organic Canola Mayo, Green Onion from the Garden, Parsley from the Garden, Cayenne Pepper, Salt, Black Pepper

Crab cakes in the skillet
The cakes are nearly finished… mmm

Marinated Summer Squash:
1 tbs White Wine Vinegar, 2 tbs Lemon juice, 1 – 2 tbs Thyme, pinch of fresh ground Black Pepper and Salt

Garden Photo Update – June 29th 2012!

Garden Photo Update – June 5th 2012!

Garden Update: May 19th!

The sun is shining and it is a great time to be planting! I am really excited about my harvest this year. Having spent the last three years learning  about pest & disease management is proving very rewarding. The only plants that fell victim to nature this year were my carrots. I directly sew the seeds and didn’t use any slug protection during their fragile seedling lives. In only one night the slugs killed over 100 carrot starts which destroyed my entire carrot crop. I repopulated their space with golden beets, which I love, and I’ll have to plant carrots in a different location.

This week I planted Golden Beets, White Sweet Spanish Onions, Roma Tomatoes, Golden Summer Squash, Burpless Cucumbers,  Black Beauty Zucchini and I transplanted some volunteer Squash and Tomatoes from my compost into the ground just to give them a chance.

 

Chicken Soup

I used those gorgeous carrots in a large pot of  chicken soup. It turned out great and made about 10 bowls of soup!

Past loaves I didn’t post

I have made so many loaves it has been hard to stay motivated and update the site that often. I have to keep my life documented, so now it’s time to post them.

Bread for Mother’s Day

I made my Mom an organic Vegetarian Lasagna for Mother’s Day. So of course she needed a nice loaf to mop up all the sauce left on the plate. This has been my favorite recipe as of late which is why it’s what I made for her.

Ingredients for Today’s Bread

  • 1 1/2 cup Organic Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 cups Organic Unbleached White Flour
  • 1/2 cup Organic Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 cup Reverse Osmosis Water
  • 3/4 tsp Organic Dry Active Yeast
  • 1 tsp Organic Unbleached White Sugar
  • 1 tbs Kosher Salt

Veggie Lasagna

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 Organic Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles (boiled for 4 minutes)
  • 8 oz Mozzarella Cheese
  • 16oz Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Fine Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Egg

SAUCE:

  • 24 oz Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
  • 12 oz Diced Tomatoes
  • 3 tbs Dried Basil
  • 1 1/2 tbs Dried Thyme
  • 1 tbs Dried Oregano
  • 2 tsp  Sugar (to balance the acidity in the tomatoes)
  • 2 tbs Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 cup Onion (minced)
  • 3 cloves of Garlic (minced or garlic press)
  • 2 small Zucchini (diced)
  • 1 large Crookneck Yellow Squash (diced)
  • tsp Butter

 

Directions

  1. I read the back of the noodle pack for assembly instructions :)


 

Seedlings!

It is a great year to be planting! The fruit trees are flowering as expected, the wild flowers are blooming and continue to display vigorous growth. The wind is mild and the sun is strong. Last year the seasons seemed a bit off. The sun wasn’t here as often as my plants needed it to be, the fruit trees and veggies I had planted flowered early because of a two week long heat-wave followed by a huge storm that destroyed all of their new growth. I hope this year the weather remains calm and sunny.

Trying to save money and gain a wider range of knowledge I decided to start my plants by seed rather than buying starts from the garden store. I did a lot of experimental planting methods and came back with a really good idea of what I should do, and should not do. Some of my seeds started in unorthodox manners are flourishing and will yield heavily. Other seeds started by following the guidelines printed on the seed package didn’t perform. They either died off early in their life, were subject to my ban-hammer, or didn’t pop-up at all.

My Methods:
I started 80-120 seeds in each test. Many varieties.

Location Medium Water Light Cycle Survival Rate % Veg time needed
Outside Peat Moss Tap Water 13h light 11h dark 85% 12 weeks
Inside Peat Moss Filtered Water 24h Light 95% 8 weeks
Outside Potting Soil Tap Water 13h light 11h dark 60% 12 weeks
Inside Potting Soil Filtered Water 24h Light 85% 8 weeks
Outside Peat Moss Light Nutrient Water 13h light 11h dark 90% 12 weeks
Inside Peat Moss Light Nutrient Water 24h Light 99% 8 weeks

In conclusion, starting seeds in Peat moss indoors with a light nutrient solution under 24hour light seemed to work best for me. I tried to start tomatoes, squash, flowers, beans, peas, greens and root vegetables. Each type of plant had a favorite way to be started, transplanted and transitioned to live outside. Far too much information for you to want to read so I’ll keep that to myself. Now I want to run more tests with aeroponic cloning!

I got a bread stone today!

BEST PURCHASE EVER!

This is my first loaf on the bread stone.  It has risen more than some of my previous loaves after only six minutes of baking! The bread stone was $50 which is pretty expensive, but it should last me for life. I save over $2 on every loaf that I bake so I think it was worth it. If I bake 25 loaves I get my money back!

Bread stone loaf

wheat and white on the bread stone
The loaf on the left is 1 1/2 cup whole wheat and 1 1/2 cup bread flour. The loaf on the right is 1 cup bread flour, 1 cup unbleached white flour and 1 cup whole wheat. I added 1 tbs of basil and 1 tsp of garlic powder to both loaves for some fun flavor.

 

The bread stone makes the bottom crust perfectly crunchy, it doesn’t burn in the slightest, and the rise is better than ever! Heck yeah bread stone!

How I use it:

Pre-heat oven to 500° with the bread stone in the oven. An hour after my last rise I form my loaf on the counter and then plop it on the bread stone and make my cuts on the stone. It seemed easier to do it that way but it was freakin’ hot.

Free Range = Sustainable, Right?

This is about chickens. I love eating chickens, cooking their eggs, using their poop for my garden, and watching them walk around looking all silly. I know it sounds a bit harsh, but everything in our universe must consume to survive and it just so happens chickens are a delicious and healthy way to do so. Anyways, this is a great article about the expectations of a farmer and what having a free range and sustainable farm is like. In this article they talk about how they built their chickens 20 x 20 greenhouses to live inside of. A small chicken paradise in my opinion. No raccoons to worry about, no wolves or freezing feet. I want to build a chicken house now.

http://matronofhusbandry.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/free-range-sustainable-right/

My Go-To bread recipe!

whole wheat basil mocha cheese bread
My most recent loaf, Whole Wheat Basil Mocha Cheese.

I know this is a lot of text, but I wanted to share how I make my bread with everyone now that I’ve had some time to experiment!

First of all, where do I get my ingredients? I buy almost everything from the bulk bins at our local organic store. It is way cheaper than buying the processed stuff in packages and is better for our health!  Below is a list of everything I use on a regular basis.

This is the list I keep stocked:

  • 5 lbs~ (.99c / lb) organic unbleached white flour
  • 2 lbs~ (1.49c / lb) organic whole wheat flour
  • 2 lbs~ (.89c /lb) organic bread flour
  • 3-5 packs of organic dry active yeast (Red Star is fine)
  • Salt (I use Kosher Salt in the red and white box)
  • Sugar or Honey (I use both, it depends on the loaf.)
  • A little bit of olive oil and butter

Tools you need:

  • 1 or 2 Big glass bowls, ceramic is fine. (Pro tip: Metal bowls have electrical conductivity that negatively interacts with the rising process. Bad for bread.)
  • Thick wood stirring spoon that won’t break.
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Parchment Paper
  • Sharp Knife
  • Cloth kitchen towel
  • Bread Pan, Baking Sheet, or Pizza Stone. I use a Pizza/Bread Stone and a Metal Bread Pan.

FOR THE BREAD MAKING PROCESS!
Put in the big bowl in order:

  •  1 cup white flour
  •  1  1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  •  1/2 cup bread flour
  •  1/2 tsp dry active yeast
  •  1 tsp of sugar or honey
  •  1 tsp table salt or 1 tbs of kosher salt
  •  1.5 cups of warm water (it is best if the water is warm to the touch but not hot to the touch. yeast activates at around 110 deg but if you go over 110 they will die. luke warm water is a safe bet to help them wake up.)
  1. Now mix all that stuff up until it is a big sticky mess. It will take 2-5 minutes of mixing to get it a nice consistency.

    From here I have two methods to share:

 

A) “the ez way” using a metal bread pan:

  1. Scrape all the dough together into a ball.
  2. Let it rise for 8-12 hours in a warm spot.
  3. it should have risen a lot, now you scrape out the stringy dough into a lightly buttered bread pan, lightly flour the top and punch it down with your fist 6-10 times. don’t be scared, bread likes to take a beating.
  4. cover it with parchment and towel again for one hour.
  5. now it is ready to bake.
  6. slice the dough however you please with a sharp buttered knife (think bakery bread) so that you control the rise and it doesn’t blowout the bottom of the loaf!

Baking Instructions for this method:

  1. pre-heat oven to 500 deg.
  2. cook uncovered for 13 minutes at 500 deg.
  3. remove bread from oven, cover with tin foil
  4. lower temp to 425, put bread back in and cook for 45 minutes.
  5. remove from oven, let it sit in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool.
  6. remove from pan, set on wire rack and wait 1 hour to cool.
  7. eat.

 

 

B) “the hard way” using a pizza/bread stone:

  1. put a piece of parchment paper down on the counter with a bit of white flour on it, scoop out the dough on to the parchment.
  2. get some flour on your hands so the dough doesn’t stick then knead it for about 3-5 minutes. whenever the dough starts sticking to your hands put a tiny bit more flour on your hands. we don’t want our dough to feel thick, so if it starts to get like playdough, you went too far. kneading is a slow methodical process, not a vigorous exercise.
  3. when done kneading make a ball with your dough and let it sit on the parchment while you clean out the bowl.
  4. put 1 tsp olive oil in the bottom of the now clean bowl and place the ball of dough in it. pour 1 tsp olive oil on top of the dough and rub it around so that you protect it from the air.
  5. let sit for 8-12 hours in a warm place
  6. now it’s time to couche the bread! repeat step 2 (reduce the kneading process to 1 minute) and then make the couche and sprinkle a bit of flour on the cloth, I use a cotton towel that isn’t fuzzy. form your loaf how you want it to look and couche it! let it sit for an hour.

Baking Instructions:

  1. pre-heat oven to 500 deg with the bread stone inside the oven.
  2. grab your oven mits and remove the bread stone from the oven and place it wherever you can
  3. you will now you will have to uncouche your bread onto the bread stone without burning yourself and keeping the loaf shape intact!
  4. slice your loaf how you see fit
  5. place back in the oven and cook at 500deg for 13 minutes
  6. cover the loaf loosely with tin foil
  7. lower temp to 425 and cook for 45 minutes.
  8. remove bread from oven and let it sit on a wire rack for one hour to cool.
  9. eat.

Method two takes a little bit more time, effort, equipment and practice to pull off, but it helps develop more gluten and make the co2 pockets larger. It may seem like a lot of work, but once you do it a few times it becomes really easy. I think I only put 10-15 minutes of actual work into a loaf of bread.