Tuesday, June 30, 2015

jam packed

The past few weeks have been jam packed.
My oldest sister, Sarah, and her family came to visit us! It was exciting because 1. I got to see family! and 2. They were our first guests as homeowners! My husband and I had been cleaning and painting to get the guest room ready. I like to say that- guest room. Would you like to see the guest room?... You can stay with us, we have a guest room.... Our cat likes to sit in the window in the guest room. (Yes, that last one is very true. We had to shut the door so we could paint because we were afraid he'd get paint on his tail or paws.)

My husband reading to our niece, Allison.

Allison LOVED going to the chicken coop to help collect eggs.

Who needs a playground when you have an empty hay wagon and tractors?

Our friends came to visit a week later. More guests! We really like having guests. I liked making meals for them, plus my husband and I hadn't seen these friends since their wedding... four years ago! Also, the same week, vacation Bible school at our church started and I was in charge. I had never directed a VBS, so it was a bit stressful at first, but then the week smoothed out like a well-oiled-Mennonite-church machine.
On top of all this, I have had my part-time job at the classiest thrift store in town. (It's true. It is the classiest.)
These were the cut out cookies I baked for the thrift store's one year anniversary sale. Yes, they were a bugger to make because of their shape, but they tasted really good!

Since it is officially Summer, the garden needs weeded, veggies need seeded, and canning has started!
I went down to the basement to get jelly jars to make strawberry freezer jam and Alfie made the empty box his new place to sleep. (He's sleeping in it right now, as a matter of fact.)

Because it didn't rain yesterday, I spent a good majority of the day weeding. I also trellised our tomatoes again. (I do the Florida Weave to trellis our tomatoes.) Who else has started canning and preserving? It's a lot of work, but so delicious come Winter. <3

Saturday, June 6, 2015

d.i.y. yogurt

For a while, my husband and I thought about buying a yogurt maker. I looked up starters to buy and recipes. I had heard you could make yogurt with a crockpot. For Christmas one year, my parents gave us D.I.Y. Delicious by Vanessa Barrington. (It was a clearance book at Anthropologie.) The cover reads, "Recipes and Ideas for Simple Food from Scratch." That sounded pretty good. The book gives recipes on how to make dairy products, breads, salads, pickled and fermented foods, among other things and tells you how to incorporate them into different meals.

My husband was the first one to make yogurt for us. We bought a cup of plain yogurt from Wegmans and used that as our starter. (You can use yogurt or buy starter.) We also use the raw milk we get from our farm. The book recommends full fat milk, but you can use low-fat milk. Once you have a batch of yogurt made, just save two tablespoons to use as starter for your next batch. 

Yogurt Recipe

1 quart milk (the best stuff you can get!)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt with active cultures
   or 1 teaspoon powdered yogurt starter

Wooden spoon or spatula
Medium sized pot
Quart mason jar
Whisk (that can fit in said jar)
Electric heating pad
Dish towel

Let's get started!

Measure out one quart of milk and pour into a medium sized pot. Slowly, heat milk up to 185 degrees. Stir frequently to avoid scorching.

Bubbles will form and the milk will start to look frothy. Don't let it boil!

Once you reach 185 degrees, or there about, turn down the heat and hold it at 185 degrees for five minutes. Stir occasionally. Take the milk off the heat and allow to cool to 115 degrees, or there about. (I really didn't time things very well this morning...)
Sterilize your quart jar. (I put a little bit of water in the jar and heat it up in the microwave for a minute; probably not the best method.) You can also heat it up in the oven, which is what I do when I am canning or put your jar in a pot of boiling water.
Put your two tablespoons of yogurt or 1 teaspoon of starter in your jar. Pour in 1/2 cup of the cooled milk and whisk. Be sure that the starter is well incorporated with the milk. Add the rest of your milk, whisk and put the top on it.
Time to make our incubator! Wrap the heating pad around your jar.
I use clothes pins to make a good fit around the jar.

Fold up a dish towel and put on top of your jar, good and snug. Set the heating pad to Low. 
Eight hours later....

Don't be afraid if there is a little separation on top. (If you'd like Greek style yogurt, let the yogurt drain through several layers of cheese cloth or a coffee filter set over a strainer in the refrigerator for 12 hours.)
Make sure you check on your heating pad throughout the day. Ours automatically turns off after two hours.
I hope that this tutorial gets you motivated to make your own yogurt. This way, you can add how much sweetener goes in or simply go without! I like a little drizzle of maple syrup myself. It's important to know what you're eating and making your own food gives you assurance in that. It's really not that hard. It just takes a little of your time, but I think that it's worth it. <3

Thursday, June 4, 2015

(everything) bagels

When I went grocery shopping earlier this week, I was eyeing the cream cheese. I don't buy it usually, but bagels and cream cheese sounded so good. I can't remember the last time I had a bagel. (No, I'm not pregnant with food cravings. These are normal-not-pregnant food cravings.) So, I bought it, but then had a package of the cream cheese in the refrigerator and no bagels. I wasn't going to buy bagels- no, no, no! I needed to get the motivation to get up early and make some fresh bagels for breakfast. My motivation- cream cheese.
I got up bright and early this morning and got to work. I used the bagel recipe from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. (She takes recipes, prices the cost of buying vs. making and tells you if it's worth it to make. She's also very funny!)
If you aren't familiar with the process of bagel making, let me enlighten you. The dough is fairly simple and surprisingly doesn't have any fats in it. Once the dough has doubled in size, you divide into pieces, and shape. The bagels are boiled and then baked, unless you have a steam oven then you can just bake. One ingredient that all bagel recipes call for is barley malt syrup. (You add that to the boiling water.) I've never had it in my pantry, so I put a couple tablespoons of brown sugar in the water.


3 1/2 cups flour
4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water

2 tablespoons barley malt syrup

Get two sheet trays. Grease one tray and sprinkle the other with cornmeal; set aside.
Mix all the dry ingredients and then pour in water. I mixed this all in my stand mixer and once everything came together, I switched to the dough hook and mixed it for five more minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Let the dough rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk, in a greased bowl.
Divide dough into ten pieces. Make a ball with each piece and use your thumb to make a hole. (Make the hole bigger than you think because the holes in my bagels disappeared when they baked.) Place shaped bagels on greased sheet.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add syrup or sugar and drop in three bagels at a time. Cook for 1 minute on each side. Put bagels back onto greased sheet tray and continuing boiling bagels until all are done.
If you want to add any toppings to the bagels, do so now (Ex. sesame or poppy seeds) To make everything bagels, I sprinkled sesame and poppy seeds with onion and garlic powder. If you have dehydrated onion and garlic that would be better.
Transfer bagels to cornmeal sheet tray and bake for 25 minutes.
Split, smear on the cream cheese and enjoy!

Yes, it does take some time, but they are absolutely worth it. <3

Where did the hole go?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Summer Quinoa Salad

Summer is here and with it comes cookouts, picnics, bonfires and barbeques. To break up the monotony of your traditional mayo/salad dressing salads at the table, I STRONGLY encourage you to try Summer Quinoa Salad.

[Side note: Every time I see the word "quinoa," I think of the one football commercial where the guy says, "What's quinoa?" but pronounces it "kwee-no". It's really pronounced keen-wa. Haven't seen it? Loot it up, it's a good one.]

I stumbled upon this recipe when I was given a fairly large bag of quinoa from my sister, Juliet. She and her family were moving out of the country and needed to get rid of her well stocked pantry. I honestly didn't know what to make with the quinoa. I knew you cooked it similar to rice and that it was good for you. (It is also gluten free, as is this recipe!) On the back of the bag it had this recipe, so I gave it a try. This particular salad is really fun to me. It has a basic oil/vinegar/lemon juice dressing with the quinoa, but you put in whatever vegetables and/or fruits- yes fruits! you have on hand. This salad can be different every time you make it. All right, I'll stop rambling and give you the recipe already!

Summer Quinoa Salad
2 cups water (or you can use veg or chicken stock)
1 cup quinoa
4 cups combined vegetables or fruits such as:
Fresh raw diced or sliced cucumber, tomatoes, stone fruit, peppers, mushrooms, or grapes and/or lightly steamed vegetables such as broccoli or asparagus spears, sliced zucchini, green beans, pea pods, corn kernels, peas, squash or pumpkin dices
1/2 large red onion, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon wine or sherry vinegar
3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
And if you have it fresh chopped parsley or cilantro

Put quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cover. Let cook for about 15 minutes, allow to cool. Combine all vegetables, onion, lemon juice, vinegar, oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss vegetables with cooled quinoa and add almonds and herbs. Chill.
Makes about 6 cups.

I'm looking forward to adding fresh vegetables from the garden to this salad. At the peak of Summer this salad can get very colorful! The quinoa I have is Nature's Earthly Choice Organic Quinoa, which doesn't require any soaking or rinsing. As with many oil and vinegar based salads, this one gets better the longer it is in the refrigerator, so I recommend making it the day before serving. Enjoy! <3