4.23.2012

Cinnamon Buns

Before I reveal pictures of my delicious homemade breakfast, I just want to say thanks to everyone who responded to my post yesterday! Everyone was full of awesome ideas and tips. I am feeling confident that we will make it work. Thank you sooo much!!!

So yesterday, I started bread, made ice cream, and I made cinnamon rolls. My kitchen is a mess! But this morning, these cinnamon rolls were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and totally worth making my kitchen look like a crime scene. This recipe comes courtesy of my favorite bread book, The Bread Bakers Apprentice.




Cinnamon Buns
6  1/2 T sugar
1 t salt
5  1/2 T butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 t vanilla or lemon extract (I used vanilla... lemon and cinnamon sounds gross to me)
3  1/2 C unbleached bread flour
1 package active yeast
1 cup whole milk or buttermilk (warm)
1/2 C cinnamon sugar - 6 T sugar to 1 T cinnamon

Ok, basics here... Cream together the butter, sugar, and salt. Then add your egg, milk, and extract.
Then add the flour and yeast. Knead with the dough hook (or by hand) until the dough is smooth, silky, and not sticking to the bowl (or counter.) This should take about 15 minutes in the mixer, but more time by hand. You may have to add more flour to get the dough to reach this consistency. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a moist tea towel and allow to rise for 2 hours, or until it doubles in size.

Turn the dough out onto a sprayed (with oil) counter and roll out to a large rectangle, about 10x15 inches. Pour the cinnamon sugar mixture onto the dough and spread out leaving a 1/2 inch lip at one of the long ends (that will be the outside of your roll.) Then just roll up the dough starting with a long edge, and then cut into 12 equal pieces. Place the rolls onto a pan and allow to rise for about 90 minutes. OK Here is where I made it different. I only allowed 3 buns to rise so we could eat them this morning. The rest of them, I placed onto a sheet pan and froze, that way I can take out a bun or 2 the night before and they will be risen in time to bake in the morning. 

Bake the buns at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are golden brown. I baked 3 this morning in a bread pan, and they turned out AWESOME. Top with glaze (Mine was some cream cheese, milk, and powdered sugar. Feel free to leave out the cream cheese if you want. or add vanilla, or orange! The possibilities are endless there)

4.22.2012

Downsizing

I really really want you guys to read this one. I need you to! In a matter of weeks, I will be unemployed, and pursuing my education. I have been doing as many classes as I can while being on the road, and lets just say that it isn't fun. I have a midterm staring me in the face actually. I can't keep up a full time job and expect to finish my degree in any reasonable amount of time.

The point is that I need to figure out how to spend less money. I want to reach out and ask you all what your best money saving tips are. I will tell you what I am already doing, and feel free to correct me or add to my list.

~Garden and Food Preservation~ I really really really am putting forth a ton of energy trying to make everything stay alive so that we have tons of produce. I don't want to screw up the garden this year. I want to put up as much stuff as I can. We are even planting down at the farm this year so we can have tons of squash and pumpkins for the winter. What do you all think of planting potatoes down there? Keep in mind, it is an hour away, so we will only be down there every couple of weeks. I know the animals will eat some of my squashes, but some sort of loss is to be expected. We will also have corn down there. Everything else will be at home. I also plan on going to UPick places to get berries and fruits for jams and preserves. As for meat, I get my beef for free as a Christmas present, and I get chicken from the market. The chicken is not cheap, but I try to use it sparingly. And from the bones, I get stock, so I won't stop buying it. Sorry. And we also have the Golden Girls, so we basically don't have to pay for eggs.

~Part Time Job~ I hear that Starbucks offers health benefits for part time workers, so I have already submitted my application. They haven't called me, so I intend to walk into the store and just talk to someone about it. I also submitted my application to the new local urban farm store. They haven't called me back either, but I know the owner is there in the afternoons, so I will approach him as well.

~Cable~ This may be the hardest one. We are thinking we will give up cable. I can watch most of the stuff I regularly watch  online, but Hubby is a cable-news addict. He can watch his football live online, but that news... It may be the deal breaker. Any tips on that one? All the stuff I can't watch online, I will just have to become more social and go to friend's houses and watch along. If only I had more friends.....

~Cars~ We took the plunge and purchased a Prius for Hubby. It was a lot of money up front, but I can already feel us getting it back. He drives soooo much for work, its insane. Seriously, he was spending like, 500 a month in gas alone. So he now has over 3000 miles on his new car, and has only filled up like, 4 times. AMAZING. I will be biking everywhere I can in order to not drive my SUV. I only go to the same 4 places, all within a 5 mile radius pretty much, so it isn't that big of a deal for me to switch to biking. Except for big trips, like to get cat food and cat litter. Earth friendly, budget friendly, and waist line friendly.

~Eating Out and Entertainment~ We (I) am trying to cook more at home in advance so that when I don't feel like cooking, dinner is already done. Crock pot meals, stuff in the freezer, etc. The other day, I made 2 gallon bags of stuffed shells for the freezer, so all I have to do it put some in a pan and throw some sauce on top and pop it in the oven. Stuff like that. Any ideas to help there? As for entertainment, we aren't big "go out for a night on the town" type people, we mostly just rent movies. Although with my unlimited internet streaming from Netflix and free Hulu.com, we can watch almost any move we want.


~Spending in General~ I like to shop. There, I said it. But not for the normal girl stuff like clothes and makeup. I like to shop at the farmers market, garden stores, hardware stores, kitchen supply, books... Really, I have a problem. I have to stop. Plain and simple. HAVE TO STOP.

The general things that people spend too much money on (coffee out, dinner out, lunch out, etc) we already have a decent handle on. Neither of us are fancy coffee drinkers, so no problem there. Hubby eats lunch out a lot, so I will have to try and figure out how to get that down... So, any tips that I haven't thought of????

4.20.2012

Making Pasta

What do you get when you have a surplus of eggs? An excuse to make pasta! Now, this is going to be a tutorial, and there is a REALLY funny part at the end... Enticing, eh?

Ok, so you start with eggs, salt, semolina flour, and water. I do not have an exact recipe for this, it is a "feely" type thing. It really just depends on the size of your eggs, how much moisture is in the air, etc. Sorry.
My eggs

They really are just so purdy!
 SO first off, add 2 or 3 eggs to your food processor. Mine cannot handle more than 3, so that is my max. Add in a pinch or 2 of salt. Process to make scrambled eggs. Add in enough semolina flour so that the mixture looks like wet sand. For today, that came out to about 1 and 1/2 cups. Perhaps tomorrow it would be more or less.
Sorry, this pic is sideways
 The mixture should hold together when you squeeze it in your hand, but should not stick to your hand.
 Pour the sandy mixture out onto a lightly floured counter, and squeeze it together rolling it around to pick up any stray pasta crumbs. Separate it into 4 pieces. (This is where I am a lucky girl) Roll out the pasta pieces flat so that they will fit into your pasta roller. Start on number 1, rolling and folding your pasta, rolling and folding, until it come through number 1 looking smooth and pliable. move through the numbers, 2, 3, 4, etc until you get the desired thickness. I like number 5 for my freezer pasta. 4 would be a good thickness if you wanted lasagna noodles. MAKE SURE you sprinkle flour between the sheets as you build up your pile so that the pasta doesn't stick together!
one sheet of pasta


Then you can either freeze sheets of pasta for lasagna, you can roll them up, and cut them wide for papardelle, or you can put them through a cutter for fettucine or spaghetti. I like to freeze fettucine, so that's what I did. 
pile of noodles
You can either cook these right away, you can dry them, keep them in the fridge, or freeze them. In the fridge, use them within a week. Frozen, they will keep for up to 3 months. I like to weigh mine out into 4 ounce portions. SO, with 5 eggs, a little flour, I got 2 and 1/2 pounds of pasta. YUM YUM!!!

Into the freezer they go! Sorry, this pic is sideways :(

SO, you must be asking yourself, what is so funny about making pasta? Well, anyone who reads this that actually knows me knows that I CANNOT do anything in the kitchen without spilling, splattering, and making a mess. Well, after I took that pic with the pasta on a sheet pan, I was walking over to the freezer, tripped over Punkin and flipped the ENTIRE tray onto floor, upside down. Its a good thing my floor was clean or else I would have had to toss the whole thing.

SO THEN I was using the little shopvac to clean up the flour that was now all over the floor, and I pulled the cord a little too tight, and knock a completely full cup of coffee onto the floor. So then I had to clean that up.

OH and while I was at the market, I ran into my supervisor from work. It was fine, but weird. Kind of like being a kid and seeing your teacher at the grocery store in her sweats. Can I start today over???

Garlic Question

I should say garlic scape question. Last fall, I planted 3 hardneck (Persian Star, German Extra Hardy, Chesnock Red) varieties and 1 softneck (Lorz Italian). I am seriously looking forward to scapes. Where the hell are they??? Organic Gardening says that they should appear in late spring to early summer... Well, I am getting impatient!!! Does any one have any actual advice as to when I should expect them?

I guess not really knowing what to expect makes me expect things early.. ALSO is anyone else having trouble with blogger NOT uploading your pictures in the correct direction? Like uh, it will NOT let me upload these pictures right side up, even though they are corrected when I save them. WTF??
right side up

wrong side up

wrong side up picture

4.19.2012

Question About Flowers

Ok, I am a veggie gardener. I have no idea about flowers. However, I installed a couple of window boxes on my garage, and unfortunately, they are on the north side. Which means shade. Such a word does not exist that exerts more fear into a veggie gardener. Now, I know that there are thing out there that grow in the shade. Any one have any suggestions???

4.18.2012

What is the Government of Michigan THINKING!?

So, as things have been circulating in the media recently, the state government of Michigan is proposing a law that makes raising heritage breed pigs illegal. Yes, you read that right, they only want the citizens of that state (and many more to come I am sure) to eat GMO hogs raised in CAFO's somewhere in this "great" land. I can't have vocalized my opinions any better than Carolyn Renee over at Krazo Acres. Sometimes, in order to speak your opinion, you have to back someone who just says it better than yourself. So here is her rant on pigs and the food chain in general. Included in here towards the beginning is a link to another fantastic blogger who explains the issue in full.

The fact that this is happening in Michigan, I fear for my state, which knocks on Michigan's door. What next? No more backyard chickens? No more victory gardens? Seriously... Somethings are just an opening act, and that is what I fear Michigan is doing.

4.14.2012

Jerky

I MADE jerky! For the first time ever! I need to use up some of my less desirable cuts of meat, and what better way than this? It came out pretty darn good if I do say so myself. Here is the recipe I used, via Alton Brown from the Food Network. He really is a culinary god. I did not do the directed drying method, but used my oven at it's lowest setting of 170 degrees. It took about 4 hours. I think the strips I cut may have been thinner than recommended, but whatever. It tastes awesome.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak (I did not have any of this in my stash of meat, so I used a roast of some sort. I think any meat would be good that is NOT a steak or tenderloin. The roast was about 2.5 pounds before trimming)
  • 2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (I doubled this, as I LOVE black pepper jerky)
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Special Equipment: 1 box fan, 4 paper air-conditioning filters, and 2 bungee cords

Directions

Trim the flank steak of any excess fat, place in a zip-top bag, and place it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours in order to firm up.
Remove the steak from the freezer and thinly slice the meat with the grain, into long strips.
Place the strips of meat along with all of the remaining ingredients into a large, 1-gallon plastic zip-top bag and move around to evenly distribute all of the ingredients. Place the bag into the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours.
Remove the meat from the brine and pat dry. Evenly distribute the strips of meat onto 3 of the air filters, laying them in the grooves and then stacking the filters on top of one another. Top these with 1 empty filter. Next, lay the box fan on its side and lay the filters on top of it. Strap the filters to the fan with 2 bungee cords. Stand the fan upright, plug in and set to medium. Allow the meat dry for 8 to 12 hours. If using a commercial dehydrator, follow the manufacturer's directions.
Once dry, store in a cool dry place, in an airtight container for 2 to 3 months. (I will be storing mine in the refrigerator because I could not get all of the fat off the roast, and fat makes meat spoil faster. That and I am a meat spoilage freak and food poisoning is the DEVIL)

4.13.2012

Seedling Update

I think everything is now big enough to be called "Seedlings" rather than "sprouts." Well, everything except the tomatoes, which just started popping up a couple days ago. So here are the pics. The cumulative list is at the bottom.
Peppers

Tomatoes

Eggplants, Chard, Marigolds

Cabbages, Brussel Sprouts

Lettuces, Herbs
Ok... Here is a list of everything I have going.

Outside:
Sugar Snap Peas - too many to count
Lettuces - 4 kinds (they look pathetic, I think they may die)
Broccoli - 6 purple sprouting, 6
Spinach (I don't think it is worth talking about because the chickens may have eaten them... oy vay)

Inside:

Onions
Peppers - 3 cayenne, 3 hot hungarian wax, 4 jalapeno, 2 bull nose bell, 2 orange bell
Tomatoes - 10 amish paste, 2 chadwick cherry, 2 black cherry, 2 wyche's yellow (no brandywines this year... though I might break down and start some next week)
Eggplants - 6 listada de gandia, 6 orient charm
4 bright lights chard
kale - 3 nero de toscano, 3 dwarf siberian
cabbages - 3 napa, 3 caraflex, 3 red express
brussel sprouts - 7 (I don't know how many will actually make it into the garden. I am hoping for 4)
Herbs - thai basil, genovese basil, cilantro, parsley, stevia, thyme
Lettuces - (ok, I don't really know... I am not a great lettuce grower, and CANNOT compete with Annie's Granny or Mrs Pickles by any stretch of the imagination)
Strawberries (I put some in a couple of hanging baskets... The package just said "everbearing" so that is what I picked)

Flowers:
Marigolds - 4 pots of Burpee's french vanilla hybrid

4.12.2012

Another Trip to the Vet

I took little Oli Dude back to the vet today, as I cannot get him to stop barfing. I stopped giving him his antibiotic because he would just barf it up 20 minutes later. However, very unlike himself, he also barfs at 230 or 3 am every night like clock work. So anyways, took him to the vet, and they gave him a shot to help keep the barfing at bay for about 36-48 hours. The vet thinks he is still enduring some sensitivity from all of the meds he had during his dental. So I guess time will tell.

But I would really really like to stop cleaning up cat barf.

New Bed

We decided that since we only ever use one of the two compost bins, we should dismantle one and build a new raised bed. It will measure 6x4 feet, and will make my garden planning a whole lot easier. Everything is easier with more space! I am super excited about it. We are going to make it fairly tall, either 16 or 20 inches as it will be sitting on top of a concrete slab. Have any of you built a bed on top of concrete? How did that go for you?

I'm really hoping to be able to plant beans and lettuces in that bed, so hopefully we will have the bed up and running in the next few weeks.... 


4.10.2012

Update on Oliver

Oli dude is doing just fine! He only ended up with one tooth needing pulled, as he was actually missing many on the right side. We are having a little problem with his antibiotic. It is a liquid that I just squirt in his mouth, so no pill drama. But he can't seem to keep it down. Today I experienced my first drive by puking. Seriously. The Dude started in the dining room, was chasing a stuffed mouse, and puked all the way across the living room. And without even missing a beat, he was right back to wrestling his mouse. Oy vay.... It's a good thing I was Spring cleaning today...

So anyways, about the medicine. I spoke with the vet and he told me mix the medicine with his food to make sure he isn't taking it on an empty tummy. But based on how much stuff came out of him during his drive by, he surely did not have an empty tummy this morning. Guess I will just have to see how it goes tonight... Ick...

**Post Update update... I mised the medicine with wet food, and Oliver gave me a snear... Yeah, I know he isn't that stupid, but I did try what the vet said....

Spring Cleaning

Today is the day. I am cleaning my entire house. It needs it. I may look nice at quick glance, but believe me, there are dust bunnies and slime lurking around every corner! And on every fan blade, and behind the fridge, and all those yuck places I never get to... Ick! Are you Spring Cleaning? What is your favorite tip? Mine is baking soda. Every where. I love that stuff. To me, it is worth its weight in gold. It cleans, scrubs, deodorizes, polishes, everything! I use it in the bathroom, kitchen, clean the mattresses, clean the carpets. I friggin love it.

And an update on Oliver... He is wonderful! He ended up only needing one tooth pulled, as it was discovered that he is missing many many teeth. How that dude eats crunchy food is beyond me. But as soon as he got home, he ate some soft food and drank some water, and was right back to wrestling with his sisters. He is such a good little dude! Thanks everyone for your wonderful thoughts. I made sure to give Oli all of your love and good kitty vibes :)

4.09.2012

Little Dude

Little Dude Oliver had to go to the vet this morning for his teeth cleaning. I am, of course, a mess. I hate leaving my little dude there. I hate having him put under because he has a severe heart murmer. However, he HAS to have his teeth done. They can only bring him bad health at this point. Ugh... This day cannot go fast enough....

4.05.2012

Planting Schedule

Ok, don't get me wrong, there are some really great schedules out there. And I have even recommended a couple. However, I need to see the big picture. So tonight I sat down, wrote out all the plants I plan on scheduling, and when they should be sown (8 wks, 6 wks before frost, etc) and put them all in an Excel sheet. It was tedious, as I am not an expert. I don't know how to use any of those fancy codes, so this is just plane ol' work. Included are the dates for fall sowing for certain veggies. If you find any discrepancies, or have some more info to be included on there, let me know, and I can update it for everyone.

If you have a similar last frost and first frost date as me (5/16 and 10/8, zone 6a) please feel free to use my calendar! If there is a veggie you want to plant but do not see it on there, just email me and I will be happy to try and find some info and email you back the chart. Special thanks to Annie's Granny for giving me info about lettuce and onions.

The file is located in my Google Docs, so if you have trouble downloading it, just let me know and I can email it to you. I hope you enjoy!!!

Planting Schedule

4.04.2012

Its Time for Permadirt

You know permadirt... That permanent dirt that is stuck under your fingernails even after you have scrubbed them with a toothbrush. Here are my fingers after today...
They aren't too bad. After all, it was only one day of planting. So today I got my blueberries planted!!! I was going to order them after being so disappointed with the selection at the big box store. But today I went to a different Big Box store and they had an AMAZING selection. And nice big plants, not those piddly little sticks you get at Home Depot. Holy cow, I just planted them, and I can't remember the names. One was for sure Earliblue... I did not get a Jersey... Maybe one was Hardiblue? yeah, thats it... easrliblue and hardiblue... I got a third variety, but it really has left me. I still have to mulch them and add some coffee grounds...
I also got my lettuces and broccoli planted. I have 4 varieties of lettuce outside, and of course I will have to get back to you with the names. The broccoli I know for sure are DeCicco and a purple sprouting variety which I am sure is just called Purple Sprouting Broccoli. We also got the chicken wire fencing up to keep the Girls out of the planted beds. 
 I have been slowly getting the beds amended with compost and peat moss to lighten it up... You can totally see which ones have and haven't been done..... The nice dark dirt will be great for my veggies! And wow, it sure is nice to be able to take aerial photos without having that huge pile of junk in the way. The Girls really love pooping on the concrete too.... 
 

4.01.2012

Damn You Mother Nature

So now I am paying for all of those lovely days spent outside over the last few weeks. I am sick. Ugh.... Like, hacking, mucus-y, sniffly, feverish, achy sick. It sucks. So today I will be spending the other part of my weekend off laying on the couch, eating soup and drinking ginger ale and tea, catching up on blogs, watching bad movies, and snuggling with the kitties. Oh, and I had to miss breakfast with BFF Steph, and I will also miss dinner out (at a new place!) celebrating birthdays. Damn you Mother Nature for making this Spring so screwy!

And it isn't just this house. Everyone seems to be sick. My sister has bronchitis, Baby Shelby has an ear infection and has to get tubes, and Grady has a double ear infection and pink-eye. Poor little kids... Poor Momma! She has to deal with sick kiddos while being sick. Oy Vay!