Friday, November 13, 2009

Two Excellent Bread Recipes

I had a couple of great bread making success recently - easy recipes with delicious results.  Aren't those the best?  I found both recipes in a quest for a rustic, crunchy, chewy bread.  One is apparently a now-famous New York Times recipe that is so incredibly easy that I highly recommend it as a confidence boost if you're having a crap day (only plan ahead a little - it's easy, but it has to laze about a while before baking).  The other recipe made these lovely loaves.

Aaaaaand, I can't find the recipe.  Ugh.  (internal dialog: It's call "favorites," bone-head.  Use it! )  Anyway, I've searched like a crazy person to find the stupid recipe again, but all in vain.  And I'm a professional searcher!  Apparently the history setting on our I.E. is on one day.  Well, I am geekily proud of these loaves so I'll just post another pretty picture of them, then get onto the recipe I am smart enough to remember.

And for the easy peasy, re-dunculous delicious one!  Get this:  it's no knead!  You truly dump the ingredients together, stir, then as Alton Brown is always saying you, "walk away."  Let the yeast do its thang, and then throw it in the oven.  It starts out very sticky, shaggy goopy.

Then after about four hours it looks even weirder.

After the big nap it gets to take, you preheat your oven, and a dutch oven or large covered casserole dish for 30 minutes.  During that 30 minutes, you knock down the dough a little and let it rest again (this is the most lazy-ass dough I've ever met, but I can't argue with the results).  Finally!  You take out your raging hot dutch oven, slide the dough in, then bake covered for 30 minutes, then un-covered for 15 more.  While you're going crazy for buttery, yummy bread smells, it's browning like it's on vacation.  When it's all said and done you get this!

 Crunchy, chewy on the outside, spongy soft on the inside.  So amazingly right with butter.  You have to try this.  Four simple ingredients and one perfect bread!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Several weeks back, in early October, T and I took a drive up north to visit Malabar Farm. I've wanted to visit for years, but PBS played their special on Louis Bromfield's life, and T got the urge, too. Louis Bromfield was on Ohio -born Pulitzer prize winning author. After living in France for ten years, he decided to move back to Ohio and bought a farm sight unseen in the Mansfield area, in 1938. As it turns out, the land was in ruins, and so Bromfield began his career as a soil conservationist in order to turn around his farm. He became known as an expert on the subject - hot on many people's minds, since poor farming practices helped contribute to the devastating dust bowl situation. He published several books on agriculture and the farm was turned into a state park after his death.

It was an outrageously gorgeous, crisp day when we visited. Not a lot was happening around the place that day, but there were hay rides. So, we walked around, checked out the animals and the buildings and caught a hay ride before grabbing lunch at the Malabar Farm Restaurant.

In the "petting farm" barn there were Clydesdale and pony, calves, rabbits and these hilarious turkeys. This one had zero fear of us, and very much wanted to know what we were up to. Outside were more cattle, a few sheep and these very serene looking goats.

Right next to the goats and sheep was the poultry house - that sign is the coolest, right?! If I ever have chickens, I will for sures be replicating this. The chicken were the highlight of the trip for me. They started checking us out, then gradually all wandered over. And when I say "all" I'm talking 30-40 chickens and couple of big turkeys. All making that back of the throat growly thing chickens do. We finally realized you could buy feed from a machine and then the party began! Those hens have laser like precision when it comes to grub, let me tell you. At first it was a little freaky having them peck away at my hand, but I finally realized it doesn't hurt, and they aren't about to miss the last little bit of grain.

The family house was right next to the barns and other out buildings. It truly looked out upon the chickens - which I can understand, they're so darn entertaining! We missed the house tours that day, but we did peek in through windows and saw the dining room/conservatory where Lauren Becall and Humphrey Bogart were married. They even have a replica of the wedding cake set up.

After walking around some more, we took our hayride. Not too exciting, but still beautiful. There was an obligatory tool-y guy trying to set up his new fancy phone the whole time, but also regular people out to enjoy a lovely day. The land really is gorgeous.

After the hayride, we made our way through lunch at the nearby restaurant. While the food was good - especially the bread - the service was incredibly slow, and our server's shift ended during our meal, so getting the check was a pretty long process. Once we got ourselves the heck outta that restaurant, we poked around the neighboring spring and veggie stand. The spring water really was amazingly good. I'm really actually sad we don't get it out of our tap!

It was a nice ride and a fun trip. I left with a drop spindle and roving, and of course, I'm now hooked on spinning. Looks like I'll finally have to start processing that alpaca fleece sitting upstairs! I think the next time we go up that way I want to hit Lehmans and see the Mansfield Reformatory.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkin time!

Well, Halloween is officially over, but I'm just now getting around to putting up a couple of pictures of my Jack-o-lantern this year. I'm such a lover of pumpkins in all their permutations - un-carved, carved, pie, bread, seeds. All of it is pretty great to me. They can be so lovely....

and so demented rabid vampire-y! Every time I look at this guy I can hear the blaaaeerruurrrgh sound he would make if he really wanted to take a bite out of your ankles.

(Somehow, you can see the hurt indignation of knowing a squirrel has gnawed off some of your eye socket.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My First Preserves!

Earlier this month, T and I finally dug up the carrots from the garden, and I'm telling you, root vegetables are officially the most rewarding thing to plant. Every time a new clump got forked up, we got the biggest kick out of the fact that "Hey! There were actually carrots growing in there!" This was the same delight we got from digging up potatoes. Something about the wait-and-see quality of planting these waaaaay back in the spring, and not seeing anything but greens for so long, made the reveal very magical. Aren't they just thrilling?!

The problem was then - we have about 85 million (overgrown) carrots. They smelled spectacular, and were all kinds of crazy shapes (thinning out is hard to do!), but no one wants that many fresh carrots. I decided to make the leap and preserve by freezing.

I'm sure it was nothing compared to canning something, but lord, what a lot of work. They had to be topped, washed (clogging up the sink with dirt), peeled, chopped, blanched, frantically spooned out of the boiling water, cooled, then vacu-sucked (by my personal lungs) into freezer bags. And since it took so much work, I only got about half of them done, and the other half went rubbery and gross on me by the next day. Oh well, live and learn. Even if we didn't get to eat them, they're compost now.

Ta da! All frozen and ready to go into soup and stew and what not. They are, admittedly, a little tough, since they were in the ground too long, but they still taste very good. I'm hoping to be more on top of things with the garden next year, seeing as there will be no wedding hoo-ha going on. I'll probably plant fewer carrots, that's for sure!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sweater for Baby J

This sweater is hot off the presses! I just finished sewing the buttons on, and since it's been such a long time since I actually completed a knitting project, I wanted to post it right away. It's yet another very gray and rainy day here, so sorry for the very dark picture.

The pattern is from Kristen Rengren's Vintage Baby Knits. I had to return the book to the library, so I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the pattern - but, needless to say, if you have the book, it's in there! Almost every single pattern is achingly adorable, so I imagine I'll be trying a few more in the future.

This little cardigan will be for my niece J, who will hopefully be visiting soon. The sweater is knit all in one piece, so there's no headache of attaching sleeves. I did find some of the instructions with the pattern chart a little confusing, but I just powered through by making any errors consistent. It may not be exactly like the pattern instructs, but no one can tell!

T actually helped me to pick out the buttons - he got pretty excited over my Grandma's button tin. Of course, I didn't have 5 of the same buttons, but I liked the look of 5 different white buttons T chose. I think it adds a quirky texture detail.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pop-overs, a Bag and a Mushroom

Mmmm, pop-overs ...Ever since I saw the Good Eats about these bready delights, I've wanted to make some, but was intimidated. Their failure is so drastic - very souffle like and droopy. But I was perusing PBS yesterday morning, and loving all the great Saturday cooking shows, when Cooks Country presented roast beef and pop-over. I love this show, as well as America's Test Kitchen. You know you can count on their recipes to be delicious, and not be overwhelmed by the instructions.

That was true for the pop-overs. Really, the hardest part was greasing and flouring my muffin pan (because I don't want to buy a pop-over pan). While they were probably not completely perfect, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did turn out. Airy, crispy in parts, and chewy, spongy in others. I keep thinking they'd be great with a slightly salty cheese.

I finished this bag last weekend, out of the Charlotte's Web reminiscent fabric T got me at Sew to Speak a while ago. Some of the pigs have a spider web on them - so cute. I found the pattern here, wanting to reproduce the massive carrying capability of an Envirosax fold up bag. The pattern is pretty darn easy, and I'm pleased with the result. I did leave out the snap closure, since the fabric is a bit too thick to fold up like the original. Still, I have a great big cute bag for carrying all my library returns in!

There's finally some sunshine today, but the past week has been nothing but rain. I noticed a couple of tiny white mushroom sprouting up in the front yard, only to find them knocked over and tasted by a squirrel. I grabbed this one to get a few pictures of it before something else decided to sample it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Our Wedding

It rained in the morning, for luck, but was clear in the afternoon when we needed it to be, so we didn't mind that it was a humid day. After 2 days of incredibly hard work with friends and family, it all came together, and T and I made our promises surrounded by the ones we love.

At the time, it all felt like a few seconds passing by, but looking back I can remember exactly how wonderful the night was. At the close of the evening, T lit fire works for the perfect, sparkly ending. I'm so glad it happened just the way it did.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Last of the Honeymoon Hooha!

Okay, I admit it. I'm a little bored with writing about all the honeymoon stuff. And if I'm bored of it, you probably, are too! I'm ready to totally return to normal life. So I'll close it up with just a bunch of pictures and captions, quick and dirty style.

This is riding out to the Mayan ruins. The roads in Belize are pretty bad....

...and this was after improvements!

Mayan ruin, Labanntun, where the famous Crystal Skull was found. Apparently the first excavation was done in the 20's...with dynamite. Now they're trying to reassemble.

After the ruins, we drove further inland to Blue Creek for our cave swimming adventure. This is a lodge for academic types to study the rain forest.

And here it is, mere seconds later in that famous rainy season rain.

This is how chocolate is born! Cocoa pods growing wild.

Here is the cave we swam into...after a downpour, in they rain season, with shoes on, no life jacket and into pitch darkness with only a weak caving light for illumination. Needless to say, this is the cave of doom, where I practically drowned.

And looking at how strong the river is, you can see why I should have listened to those warning bells going off in my tummy!

Maya people often still live in these thatched houses. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, I guess.

The Mayan Mountains.

One last sit out on our cabana porch.

Our teeny plane back out to Belize City. This flight was packed. After our first stop, after five minutes of flying, we dropped what appeared to be the pilot's buddy off in Savannah, and took on more passengers. In order to do so, another passenger had to go sit next in the co-pilot's seat!

What I miss the most is the sound of the water, and rustle of the coconut palm fronds, tapping together in the wind. There was always the gentle sound of tapping rain drops, even when the skies were clear.