Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Garden Planning

Planning my January...with a foot and a half of snow covering my back yard. It seems early, except that I need to order seeds and seed potatoes. And Ty said he's going to build me two new beds (though together they'll be about the same size as the one I already have). Yay for doubling my growing space!

I just placed my order for seeds potatoes. I got three fourpacks of different varieties from a supplier out of Bowden, AB. Eagle Creek Farms has a CSA program, a u-pick, a sunflower maze, and a huge selection of seed potatoes. Instead of the generic bag of seed potatoes that I bought from Safeway last year (which were fine and tasty mind you) this year I''m planning for Banana Fingerling, Russian Blue, and Russet Burbank.

We have these bricked in planters on the front of our house but we get so much sun out front that the beds had just baked into a brick. Last year I got one side dug up, weeded, and mixed in some compost and a ton of water and planted potatoes there. After harvesting those potatoes I planted garlic for the first time back in October so I'm looking forward to seeing how that pans out. I'll be repeating the fixing up and poto process on the other half of the house this year.

I'm also getting ready to start my tomato seeds inside . I''m thinking seven starts as I'm sure two or three won't take off as well. I'll be pruning my tomato leaves far more aggressively this year as last years summer was so terrible I barely got fruit off the plants.

Early Planting - Spring 2009

Man, is it spring time yet?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January Spice Rack Challenge - Rosemary and Sea Salt Crackers

Here it is. My first post done for the Spice Rack Challenge.

The herb selected for January was Rosemary and I made up a batch of crackers using Rosemary and Sea Salt as the flavoring. The downside to this month was that while I really enjoy fresh rosemary, I didn't much like the crackers. While I rolled them as thin as I though I could, they're kind of thick and not at all like the thin rosemary crackers from Costco that I was trying to replicate. Ty says they're good, but he wasn't the one trying to make an at home version of something he loves so his opinion is skewed (or so I choose to believe).

They look pretty at least. And they do taste fine. I know that I'm just being picky.

2 cups all purpose flour (next time I'd go 1 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat for more flavor)
1 1/4 tsp salt (plus more for sprinkling)
3 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary (plus 2 more Tbsp for topping)

Mix ingredients well (I used my hand to really squish it all together) and let sit for 20 minutes. Divide in half and on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out as thin as possible (and trust me now when I say if you think they're thin enough, go thinner). Cut into square/rectangle/ diamond shape of choice with pizza cutter and transfer to parchment lined cookie sheet.

Brush with water and sprinkle with a touch more sea salt and more chopped rosemary (press the rosemary in slightly to make it adhere. Prick each cracker with a form to help it from puffing up too much and bake in a 450 F oven for 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Banana Oat Muffins

We buy a lot of bananas in our house but often end up not finishing the bunch before they over ripen. I typically toss those ones into the freezer until I feel like baking but upon my freezer tidy earlier this week I realized I had a dozen bananas taking up space in a corner. A double batch of something was in order so I flipped through my favorite muffin cookbook (Pilsbury best Muffins and Quickbreads) for inspiration. I tweaked the recipe by upping the cinnamon, and skipping the topping (unneeded extra sugar). I've also made these muffins with some of the all purpose flour subbed out for whole wheat flour with great success.

Banana Oat Muffins (makes 24)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
4 medium bananas (thawed and mashed)
1 cup buttermilk*
6 tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs

*While not a decent substitute for all recipes, when baking you can replace buttermilk with a self soured version. Simply add 1.5 tsp vinegar (or lemon juice) per 1/2 cup milk and let sit for a minute to sour.

Preheat oven to 400 F and spray muffins tins with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl until well blended. In a smaller bowl, mix bananas, buttermilk, oil and eggs. Beat well.

Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. A bit of dry stuff still there is fine. You don't want to over mix muffins or they get a little tough and get those super pointed tops.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in a muffins comes out clean. Let sit in pan for 1 minutes and then remove to rack to cool.

Banana Oat Muffins

Store in a tight closing container or freeze (I usually freeze 8 muffins from a batch of 24 so we always have baked goods handy). Four muffins to a ziplock freezer bag works great for us.

Friday, January 14, 2011

2011 Spice Rack Challenge

It's my day off in between three days and three more days of shifts. It's also freezing cold outside so I have no plans to leave the house anytime soon. I am however baking bread, making muffins, and because I've decided to participate in the Spice Rack Challenge I figured that today would be an excellent time to clean out and reorganize my spice cabinet.

Cabinet and Door Post Clean

I wiped down the cupboard and the lazy susan, tossed a few blends that were pretty old, filled jars where I could, noted that I was out of tarragon (which I'll still probably forget to pick up at the store the next time I go, and rearranged everything back in there the best that I could.

I've got a loaf of bread baking in the oven and the dishwasher is running. Banana Oat muffins are up next (recipe and pics posted tomorrow hopefully) and then I'll be making some kind of shrimp scampi and salad for dinner.

And did I mention that I sorted through the vast amount of recipes ripped out of magazines. Must actually try more of those instead of just collecting them...sigh.

I'll leave you with an in progress...

and finished shot (crappy as it is) of last nights breakfast for dinner. We had sweet potato, scallion, and sausage hash topped with poached eggs (and served in pasta

Sweet Potato, Sausage, and Shallot Hash with Poached Eggs

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bread for Lazy People -aka- No-Knead Bread

I'd been aware of no-knead bread for quite some time but not having an adequate pot to bake it in it had never been more than a passing fancy. Until I started seeing the latest crop of recipes and pictures of it everywhere. I read the Patent and the Pantry recipe, I read the version in the New York Times that she adapted hers from, I read about Jim Lahey's book, and then I put a dutch oven on my Christmas wish list.

My recipe is not an exact representation of any of the aforementioned ones, but really, they're all pretty close. I love Gwen's method of letting the second rise occur on the parchment paper.

No Knead Bread
-adapted from Jim Lahey, the New York Times and Gwen from Patent and the Pantry-

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 5/8 cups water
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl. Add water. Stir together into a sticky mess. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit on counter for 12 - 18 hours (I recommend mixing it up around 6 pm on a Friday so it can sit over night).

The next morning take a look at it, the surface should have a ton of tiny bubbles. This is good. Flour a work surface and plop the dough on it. Sprinkle flour on to of the dough blob and on your hands to keep them from sticking. Fold dough over on itself a couple of time, cover loosely with plastic wrap (I use the same wrap that was on the bowl) and let it sit for 15 minutes.

Re-flour your hands and form the dough into a ball. Plop ball onto sheet of parchment paper, cover with a clean towel and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 2 more hours. (For ease, I wash the mixing bowl during the 15 minute rest and drop the parchment paper right in it for the second rise. That was the towel doesn't touch the dough and if the loaf starts to spread it stays ball shaped). The dough is ready when it is almost doubled in size.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (such as my brand new enamel cast iron Kirkland Signature pot from Costco which is awesome and 6 times less money than a Le Creuset - hence my ability to own one) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Pick up the parchment paper, drop it in the HOT pot (seriously, it's hot, don't touch it with your bare hands).

Cover with lid and bake 25 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes (2o minutes for me in Calgary), until loaf is a nice brown. Pick up the parchment paper by the corners, remove loaf from pot and cool on a rack.

After it's cool, slice it open and smear with butter. It's remarkably airy for homemade bread (because of the long slow rise) and there are good air pockets throughout.