Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

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.*

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?… 🙂

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… 🙂

Squash, Zucchini, and Projects for the Day

Flower of the zucchini plant.

Flower of the zucchini plant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We finally had some much needed rain last night.  Some time after supper it began raining and it rained for hours.  I could hear it just pouring outside.  This is wonderful for the garden and I won’t have to water the garden today.  It’s also cooled it off nicely outside.

As you probably know, I planted the garden a little on the late side, so we haven’t had a chance to enjoy much from it other than a few salad greens and some herbs.  Well, we are finally getting a bit more from the garden.  Last night we had fried squash and onions with squash fresh from the garden.  It took a few days to get enough squash, but it was worth it.  There will be tomatoes and jalapenos soon too.

I have a couple of zucchini, which we decided not to fix in with the squash.  I’m thinking about making zucchini bread.  I love the taste of zucchini bread, I’ve just never made any.  This means finding a recipe and grinding some wheat.  The recipe will be easy and I’ll probably end up modifying it.  I usually do.  The wheat will take a bit more work.

I am blessed to have an electric mill, but the thing is so loud it sounds like an aircraft taking off.  It also spews flour dust in the kitchen even though I’ve changed the filter.  I’m not sure why it continues to do this.  The solution I’ve come up with to take care of both these problems is to grind the wheat outdoors.  I just plug the mill up to an extension cord outdoors and lug a pail of wheat out too.  It’s not so loud since it’s not in an enclosed space and who cares if you get a little wheat dust on the grass.

So I guess I have at least a few projects to work on today.  I’m going to add to the list, because I’ve realized I need to do a bit of garden research to answer some questions.  As I was doing my usual morning garden walk around, I thought of a few things I didn’t know the answer to.  One, would be if carrots and onions grow in the ground, how do you know when they are ready?  I’m also wondering how long do eggplant plants take to reach maturity?

If you’ve read some of my past blog posts, you might recall that the big garden is a bit of an experimental garden.  I’ve been playing around with companion planting and trying to grow some things I’ve never attempted to grow before, such as watermelons and pumpkins.  I’m going to try to keep notes, so I know what worked and what didn’t.  For example, I know in our garden dirt, beets and bunching onions don’t seem to like it.  Neither would grow this year.  One of the things I thought interesting about Thomas Jefferson was learning he kept journals about his gardens.

P.S. – How’s that for easy?  Found a couple of zucchini bread recipes(found below) as I was finishing up this post.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned while gardening?  Any experiments in your garden this year?…

Whole Wheat Banana Oat Muffins

Yesterday I had some over ripe bananas sitting on the kitchen table just beckoning to be made into something.  I decided last night, I would make some muffins this morning.  Well, I searched around looking for recipes and ending up having fun experimenting.

Not all of my kitchen experiments turn out well, but this one is a keeper.  The muffins turned out moist, sweet enough, and held together well.  Of course, tasted great too or it wouldn’t be a keeper.  On the plus side, these are healthier than my usual muffins.

Whole Wheat Banana Oat Muffins

Whole Wheat Banana Oat Muffins

Whole Wheat Banana Oat Muffins

Ingredients :

  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. whole oats
  • 1/4 c. flaxseed meal
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 4 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 c. agave nectar
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. milk

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Melt the butter in the microwave or in a pot on the stove.  Add the melted butter, applesauce, agave nectar, and milk in the bowl.  Do not stir just yet.  In a separate bowl mash 2 over ripe bananas with a fork.  Add the 2 eggs in with the bananas and beat slightly.  Pour the banana and egg mixture into the large mixing bowl with the other ingredients.  Now, stir all the ingredients together till moistened and well blended, but do not over stir.

Prepare muffin pan by greasing cups with cooking spray or using paper muffin liners.  Fill muffin cups with batter.  Place pan in a 350 degree preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes.  Makes 1 dozen muffins.  I actually pulled my muffins out at 23 minutes as I like my baked goods a little on the lighter side.  I also used fresh ground cinnamon in the recipe, just since I had it on hand, but cinnamon powder could be used.  Also, I think the cinnamon could’ve stood to be bumped up to 1 teaspoon for more flavor.  Yum!

Catching Up and Chocolate Oatmeal Drop Cookies…

It has been a busy couple of weeks, so I’ve been a little lax in my blogging and my gardening.  I’m back from a good trip to my mother’s.  My daughter and I went for her retirement ceremony.  She’s retiring after teaching school for about 12 years.  We had a good visit and it was nice it was just us girls.  No guys.

Now I’m playing catch up, which seems something I’m always busy doing.  I was very happy to find out this blog was nominated for a blog award from a fellow blogger.  I will try to do another post for it later today.  It’s on my ever growing “To Do” list. 

This morning I got busy with the hoe and weeded four rows in the garden while it was still cool.  The big garden is coming along nicely with a minimum of deer damage.  The little shade bed has some beautiful bright pink impatients, which are in bloom.  The smaller herb bed, with a few vegetables mixed in, is doing nicely and needs some care.

As the weather continues to warm up some, hopefully there will be more fresh produce soon.  The small amount of peas I had planted are done and I need to plant some more.  We continue to have some lettuce and of course lots of fresh herbs.  I used some fresh chives the other day to make scalloped potatoes.   

Making Cookies

Making Cookies

Here is a picture from last week I had wanted to share.  It’s my daughter finishing up making some chocolate oatmeal drop cookies.  It’s a cookie more like a candy that we love.  Most of the time they set up, but sometimes they end up being spoon cookies(meaning so soft you have to eat them with a spoon).  The cookies did good this time.

It’s a good quick cookie, which can be made in a hurry.  We usually always have these ingredients on hand in our house.  Make sure to gather your ingredients before starting.  The peanut butter and oats should be measured out and sitting on counter ready to add when needed.  Prepare a flat surface (counter or kitchen table) with at least 3 feet of wax paper rolled out for cookies.

Put 1 stick (1/2 c.) butter in a pot and melt over medium heat.  Add in 2 1/2 c. sugar, 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder, and 1/2 c. milk.  I stir this continuously, bring to a boil.  After it’s boiled for 1 minute (often I do just a bit over a minute), take it off the burner.  Quickly stir in 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter, and 3 c. whole oats (uncooked).  Quickly drop by tablespoon onto waxed paper.  Makes about 3 dozen.

I say quickly a couple of times, because if the cookies are doing properly, they will set up rapidly.  If the cookies start to harden up, the ones you do towards the end will not be as glossy looking and will be harder to drop from the spoon.  It does not take long for the cookies to cool down and they should peel up easily from the waxed paper.  Love to eat a couple while still slightly warm with a glass of cold milk.  Yum…