Summer Gardening and Pizza!

Summer is in full bloom and though there was no big garden this year, the couple of raised beds my daughter helped me build are coming along nicely. I haven’t had the first tomato off yet. I think they were a bit late, because we’ve had an odd summer so far. Until recently it’s been raining more than usual and the temperatures have been cooler than our norm for this time of year.

The tomato plants are full of green tomatoes and growing taller than the tomato cages. I went outside today trying to figure out some way to keep the vines from falling over so much. I’m afraid they’ll break off. I ended up tying some twine around a couple of the branches to kind of gather them together for support, then tied the other end of the twine to the top of the stake holding the cucumber trellis on one side and the top of a neighboring tomato cage on the other side. (Sorry the picture’s not better—from phone as computer won’t recognize the camera card for some reason.)

Tomato and Cucumber Plants

Tomato and Cucumber Plants

All of the tomatoes are beefsteak except for one roma tomato plant that survived(unfortunately the goat ate my other ones at the beginning of the season—a tale for another day). In the front of the tomatoes in the second raised bed are the cucumber plants trailing up the piece of fencing and some jalepeno plants. The fencing was a leftover piece from last year’s garden. There are lots of blossoms on the plants and a couple of small cucumbers beginning…a little over an inch long with lots of prickles.

The first raised bed has two tomato plants on the end nearest the second bed. The rest of the bed has bell pepper plants and nasturtium flowers at the front in a beautiful array of yellow, orange, and red blossoms. I’m glad I planted the flowers. I know they’re edible, which I haven’t tried to do yet, but they add a nice pop of color to enjoy. There are a few plants in pots too : basil, another beefsteak tomato plant, and an eggplant(it may or may not produce—it’s been kind of puny looking).

I’m not too worried everything is a little late producing as thankfully we have a rather long growing season in NC. I need to look at trying to plant a few things for fall, but haven’t gotten that far. It’s been busy around here just with day to day stuff and caregiving. I’m trying to get back to blogging more and will try to share a few more recipes.

I’ve been enjoying doing more with whole wheat flour. I even made homemade pizza from scratch tonight…all the way from the crust to the pizza sauce(just not the cheese and I don’t see cheese making in my near future…lol). It may not be cheaper than frozen; but it is cheaper than take out(we’re so rural we don’t have delivery), healthier, and boy does it taste good!

 

 

Making Homemade Bread

For a long time creating the daily staple of bread had escaped my grasp. My homemade bread was only good for eating when it was warm and slathered with butter. The day I finally made a loaf of good eating bread…so good you could use it for sandwiches…I very excitedly called one of my friends and told her.  She’s been a good friend through the years and one of my role models for homemaking, so she would understand my excitement over bread.

She congratulated me and told me she didn’t start making good bread till she was in her 40’s either. I hope those of you reading this, figure it out way earlier than us. I’ve been trying to make a good loaf of bread for a long time. Years ago, I asked the same friend if she’d show me how to make homemade bread. She welcomed me, just warned me she didn’t use a recipe, and I watched in awe as she made a loaf of bread entirely by hand.

I wish I could say my homemade bread was made in the truly old fashioned way of doing every bit of it from scratch. No such luck, I take a shortcut. I do use freshly ground whole wheat flour to make my bread, but I use the bread machine to make the dough. It takes about 5 minutes to put the ingredients in the bread machine pan in the order listed. I hit the option for dough and wait an hour and 20 minutes for the next step. (On my machine-I use the 1 1/2lb. setting)

After the timer beeps, I take the dough out and knead it just a bit on my well floured kitchen table. Next, I shape it in a loaf and put it in a stoneware loaf pan greased with olive oil. I put it in upside down so the top gets greased too, then just pop it out and put it back in the right way. The pan is covered with a towel, allowed to rise for 30 min. in a warm place, and then finally baked at 350 degrees F. for 25 min.(my oven, original recipe says 30 min.).

Beautiful Homemade Bread

Beautiful Homemade Bread

A trick I started doing is to lightly cover the top of the loaf with foil the last ten minutes of cooking time, so the top doesn’t get so dark. My family likes a light top loaf. The recipe I use is one I found over at the Money Saving Mom website in a post titled Homemade Bread for Beginners. It’s a great recipe! I use sea salt for the salt and extra virgin olive oil for the oil in it. Also, I love to cook it in a stoneware loaf pan.

The key to cutting the bread for sandwiches is cover the pan with the towel for 5 min. after taking it out of oven. Next, take it out of the pan, place it on a plate, and cover with the towel till it’s cooled. This is the really hard part and we can’t always resist cutting a piece of warm bread off to have with butter right away. Lastly, use an electric knife to cut into slices, then put the bread in a bag. I just twist the top of the bag and pinch closed with a clothespin.

*The electric knife is probably not essential, but I’d say if you don’t have one and intend to make bread on a regular basis, it’s worth the investment. The one I use, we actually found years ago at a thrift store. It makes slicing bread so easy.*

Short Note

A pet peeve for some folks are posting apologies on a blog for not blogging, so sorry if you’re in that group. This is sooo that kind of post. I just wanted to write a short note to say “I’m sorry”….sick again, so there will be no new blog posts for a few days till I get recovered. Temporarily, I will be sipping lots of cups of hot herbal tea and curling up with a good book. Reading’s still comforting even if you have to lie down to do it. The only writing will probably be me whining in my journal; unless some fairy size muse flies through the air, sprinkles magic glittery dust on my head, and causes an instant spurt of creative energy(I can wish can’t I?…ha, ha).🙂

Fairy – "Take the Fair Face of Woman"...

Fairy – “Take the Fair Face of Woman”, by Sophie Gengembre Anderson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Herbal Gardening Bits and Baking

Spring is here, but I can’t really tell by the weather. It snowed the first day of spring and it’s been cold all this week. When it was warm a few days a couple of weeks ago, I started working on the small herb bed. Many of the perennial herbs are already coming back : catnip, peppermint, oregano, sage, chives, thyme, and rosemary.

The sage looks like it needs some trimming, but I wasn’t real sure how to do it properly. Of course, the quick and easy way for an answer is to look it up online. I found an article at  Jim Long’s Garden with an explanation and pictures of how to trim sage plants. I’m going to try to do this soon, but while it’s cold I’ve been spending more time baking.

I’ve found a chocolate chip cookie recipe I LOVE over at apple a day blog. In fact she calls it Best-ever chewy chocolate chip cookies and I’d have to agree. I’ve now made the recipe 3 times and it’s never failed. The recipe doesn’t call for chilling the dough and I really wouldn’t as these cookies hardly flatten out. It’s that simple, mix ingredients and start baking cookies.🙂

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I usually end up changing recipes a bit, but this one I’ve truly just left alone. There are only two things I’ve done a little different in the process. After using my scoop and putting the cookies on the cookie sheet(I always use a stoneware pan), I lightly flatten the tops a bit with my fingers, because I wanted my cookies a littler flatter than they were coming out.

The only other thing I did, was bake the cookies between 11-12 minutes, which is probably just a difference between ovens. The recipe calls for not baking over 10 minutes and at 10 minutes my cookies were still too gooey. These cookies are so delicious that the only hard thing will be trying not to eat too many.🙂

Every now and then I have to make something none chocolate as not everyone in the house likes chocolate as much as I do, so the other day I made lemon crinkle cookies. These turned out great! They have a light buttery lemon taste and are a nice chewy cookie. It was from a recipe I found online at LDS Magazine(no reflection on my faith beliefs).

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Maybe it will warm up soon and I can get to gardening. Till then I’ll work on baking and some crochet projects. I’ll leave you with a picture of some of my tomato seedlings…roma and beefsteak, which I’ve already transplanted to some bigger pots. I started them out in one of those little seedling cell trays. These are proof you can often use older seeds with good results.

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato Seedlings

Share any thoughts or projects you’re working on or maybe your favorite thing to bake on a cold day?…🙂

Renewal and New Additions

I’m planning to renew my blogging on Kittrell Country Life with vigor. It’s been a busy winter around here and I’ve hardly had a chance to slow down, but life is settling some. We’ve had some new additions to the barnyard arrive last week. My daughter and I bought four hens from Walk Ahead Farms in Youngsville. I’m looking forward to having fresh eggs again.

Chickens(Lydia, Lacewing, Rose, & Georgette)

Chickens(Lydia, Lacewing, Rose, & Georgette)

Another Picture of the Ladies

Another Picture of the Ladies

Another nice arrival this month was the snow, for the first time all winter it finally snowed more than a few flakes. It was beautiful and we were glad to make snow cream to eat, but I’m ready for spring. It’s right around the corner, less than one month now. As usual about this time of year, I have some seedlings growing in the house.  The top of the dryer near the back door and the kitchen window sills get good light and turn into my nurseries in the spring.

View of Snow Through Kitchen Windows

View of Snow Through Kitchen Windows

The only plants I’ve started so far are roma tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, and dark beauty eggplant. I’m planning to start more real soon. In case you’re not much of a gardener and didn’t know, you can use older seed. I’ve had pretty good results, better than 50%, but it’s best to plant at least 2 or 3 seeds per spot if you’re using seed older than a couple of years as some may not sprout. Some of the seeds I used this year were four years old.

Gardening is just one small part of homesteading I do. Homesteading is a lifestyle, which involves becoming more self-sufficient. This means being able to provide more for your own needs without having to rely so much on outside sources. Usually, most of us aren’t capable of becoming fully self-sufficient, but I figure the more I’m capable of doing, the better. Just don’t look for me to start making my own nails or homemade paper any time soon.🙂

As I continue to learn more about homesteading, I’ll share about things as I go along. There will definitely be some recipes and links to recipes coming soon. I’ve really been doing a lot of cooking from scratch and baking. Trying to be more frugal to save money in this economy is good incentive to learn to do things for yourself you may never have done before. I’ve even become pretty adept at making homemade bread.

I have several boards on pinterest if you’d like to go take a peek. My favorites are the Gardening board and the Favorite Recipes board. Both have a lot of ideas I’d like to try and some I’ve already attempted. I try not to spend too much time on pinterest, but I do like being able to pin ideas so I can find them easily.

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy and take time to count your blessings in your life.  I don’t always make it, but I’m trying to practice being thankful everyday.  There are so many things we all have to be thankful for in our lives. 🙂

Pumpkins, photographed in Canada.

Pumpkins, photographed in Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apples, apples, apples…

It’s fall!  The leaves are a beautiful array of colors and apples are plentiful.  This means apples are usually on sale in most grocery stores and being the ever diligent budget minded person I am, I start thinking of ways to use them in our meals.  Besides snacking, there are numerous recipes using apples.  I found a couple of great recipes online and thought I’d share.  Both were easy to make and tasted wonderful!

As usual, even though most recipes are probably fine, I’ve gotta make some adjustments.  I’ll be sure to include the things I changed or found might work better.  This past Saturday, I made some delicious apple scones.  This is the first time I’ve made scones, but they turned out to be easy to make.  The recipe for Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones can be found over at the King Arthur Flour site.

Instead of the all-purpose flour, I used fresh ground whole wheat flour.  I did not use cinnamon chips as I didn’t have any, so I just left those out and didn’t do a substitution.  The only other change to the recipe ingredients I did, was I used regular sugar to make the topping for sprinkling on the dough.  They still tasted good, but I think the coarse sugar would have made them look prettier.

Other than those few changes, I followed the rest of the recipe exactly.  The only thing I believe I’d do different next time would be to chill the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes before cutting it in wedges.  I think it would have made that step easier, because I found it a little difficult to slide the wedges apart so there was 1/2 inch in between each piece.  Everyone loved these and I even ate a couple another day with a glass of milk for breakfast.

The other thing I love is these can be frozen in dough form and baked when you’re ready.  I read about it in the comment section below the recipe.  The recipe makes two rounds, so you could always bake one and save the other for another day.  Freezing this recipe would make it real convenient to have something fresh baked for breakfast, dessert, or a tasty treat for surprise company.  Here are some pictures(you can see the bit of a mess I made pulling apart the wedges) :

Scone Dough Shaped in a Circle

Scone Dough Shaped in a Circle

Scone Dough Divided Into Wedges

Scone Dough Divided Into Wedges

Finished Scones Ready for Eating

Finished Scones Ready for Eating

Yesterday, I made a tasty and nutritious apple cranberry crisp.   I was a little hesitant about the recipe I found.  It is a light recipe and did not use butter, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to taste.  I’m a firm believer in using butter in baking, but as I was out of butter I decided to give it a try.  The recipe can be found over at My Recipes for the Apple-Cranberry Crisp.

Now for the changes, you knew they were coming. :)  I added 3/4 cup of crushed pineapple drained, which I mixed in with the other fruit.  I sprinkled a tablespoon of lemon juice over the apples after I cut them up.  Lastly, I sprinkled about 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground cinnamon on top.  The only reason I put the cinnamon on top is because I forgot to add it into the oat and brown sugar mix which gets sprinkled on top of the apple mix.

This recipe is another winner, despite my initial hesitations.  It tasted so good, I did not miss the butter.  The other plus of this recipe is it has a lot less sugar than crisp I have made in the past.  On the down side, this can make it a little more runnier than I’m used to.   I briefly thought about trying to add a little cornstarch next time, but then quickly dismissed the idea as this was so good there was nothing left after breakfast the next day.  I will make this again.

Apple-Cranberry Crisp

Apple-Cranberry Crisp

Hope you enjoy the recipes and get inspired to make something delicious with apples…🙂

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.