Saturday, November 24, 2012

Urban Bobcat

We are well into the fall season here in the Puget Sound area. The fruit trees are mostly bare, the last of the lettuces are trying not to freeze and the wild predators are getting hungry as the rabbit population dwindles.  The neighborhood bobcat has been cruising through the yard for a couple of years now and has never bothered anything in the yard, but this year is different.

Pretty cool to see the local bobcat!

This year the not so little feline has decided to jump the 5' fence that has up until now kept our hens quite safe. We caught her in there recently and chased her out, but before we could secure the girls in a covered space we lost a couple to the circle of life.  Needless to say, our fifteen chickens are feeling a bit confined in their temporary 48 square feet of safety, they've had about 2,500 sq. ft. for exercising and foraging. We'll fix that in the near future.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tartine Basic Country Bread

I love a freshly baked loaf of bread, especially when it is smothered with butter and jam. I recently discovered that bread making is an artful process, not as intimidating as I thought, and with the help  of a few wonderful cookbooks I finally took the plunge to learn this functional art. My favorite bread books are Tartine Bread, Flour Water Salt Yeast, and The Bread Bakers Apprentice . I chose start with the Basic Country Bread recipe from Tartine Bread because I found that I could wrap my brain around it the best. Using the simple ingredients of yeast, flour, water and a little salt makes a loaf of bread that can be enjoyed at any meal.

Fresh bread with peach ginger compote

During almost the who process of making bread, one is dealing with a living organisms in the dough that have to be nurtured and understood the whole time. I think the most important part of the bread making process is making sure you have a thriving starter. The starter is the living yeast and bacteria that make the bread rise and produce a full flavor.

Your starter should be full of bubbles! All these bubbles say that fermentation is happening between all the little organisms living in the starter and the leaven.

And the leaven will float in water.

Grow baby grow!

Mix the flour, water, leaven and salt and nurture the dough through the first rise or bulk fermentation where the dough will increase in size about 20%. This dough never has to be kneaded, just "turned" in the container at half hour intervals. This step takes about 4 hours.

The dough will be sticky and loose.

Pour the dough on to a smooth surface, divide it in half and shape into discs. This begins to build tension on the outside surface of the dough, then give the dough a little bench rest.

Tightening the surface

The dough is now ready to be shaped in the final loaf.

Tightening some more

In the final shaping, the dough is folded over itself in each direction which tightens the tension of the loaf even more.

Baskets with washable cotton covers

For the final rise, I placed the dough in these bread baskets I purchased from the San Francisco Baking Institute.

An overnight rest in a basket

There are a couple of ways to do the final rise, the quicker way is 3 to 4 more hours of resting at room temperature or the delayed method where the bread in put in to the refrigerator overnight. I do the delayed rise because I think it gives the dough a little more time to develop a deeper flavor.

The next morning....

When baking my dough I use a couple of different dutch ovens. The idea with using a dutch oven is to keep the stream from baking the dough surrounding the bread which allows the loaves to expanding without forming a hard crust. The ovens I use are a 5 quart Le Creuset and a 10" Lodge Combo Cooker.

Be careful...these pans will be super hot!

This pan is so hot the orange color turns red.

Score the top of each loaf which lets the dough expand so you don't winding up with a flat dense loaf that didn't rise to its full potential.

Place the covers on the ovens and begin baking.

Notice that the dough does most of the rising through the score.

After 20 minutes

Bake another 20-25 minutes with the covers off.

A little extra crisping

Then I continue to bake the loaves on just on the racks for another 5-10 minutes to add color and crunch to the crust.

color and texture

Beautiful crumb, crust and flavor. Check out the Tartine Bread book or any good bread book for recipes and detailed instructions on the practical art of bread making. It took me several rounds of practicing before I finally was able to really bake a wonderful loaf. Each time I tried, I learn something about nurturing the living dough and kept adding the knowledge to the next attempt. I enjoy putting my hands in the dough and feeling how it changes through all the hours of rising and of course the anticipation of breaking off a chunk and slathering butter and fruity jam on it.

This post is also a part of Simple Lives #123 hosted by Sustainable Eats

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Flowers This Week

Gathering flowers from my yard to put into pretty vases is one of the things that brings a lot of joy to my life. I'm trying to blend unexpected flowers together and sometimes I get a nice surprise.

The colors, the textures and fragrance of flowers touch my senses and really make me feel happy and content. If only all of life were so easy.

two types of lavender and a succulent

What flowers are blooming in your yard? What flowers do you like to put together in an arrangement?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Eat Your Herbs

 I love herbs. Every garden needs herbs and having these fresh flavors for cooking can't be matched by the store bought dried version. The scent of freshly cut herbs inspires me to get in the kitchen and cook. In the morning I put them in scrambled eggs, for lunch in a chicken salad or ham sandwich, and for dinner a fragrant rub on a roast. For the most part they are easy to grow and for me, there are a minimum eight perinneals that are super versatile for cooking and easily grow.

My favorites are: thyme, parsley, oregano, sage, tarragon, mint, bay and rosemary.

All of these plants can be put in the ground or a pot, will grow abundantly spring thru the first frost and can be harvested in small amounts during the winter. Mulch during the cold season and enjoy your herbs for years to come.

Delicious herbs from my garden.

The edible flowers that bloom in the spring and summer are lovely additions to salads, soups, main dishes and desserts! Not to mention a beautiful bouquet for a window. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Day on the Farm

This week I spent a day working on an organic farm on Vashon Island. What an eye opening experience to see and feel what happens on many small farms that produce organic food with a local connection. The work is hamstring pulling, quadricep burning, back fatiguing work. I know this because I spent a greater part of the day pulling weeds from small seedlings in the carrot and beet patches. Today, three days later, my muscles are still screaming every time I have to squat down.


It's amazing to me that hidden in the jungle of non-edible leafy greens grows small little carrots.


I also harvested these colorful radishes for the CSA boxes. I pulled them from the soil one by one, then gently sprayed them with water and then floated them in a cool water bath. They were then neatly bundled for the veggie boxes.

A lot of work goes into getting CSA boxes together, so when you pay for that weekly box of deliciousness and cringe a little bit at the price, remember that getting organic food to your table requires lots of physical work, growing time and thoughfulness.

Monday, May 7, 2012

April UFH Challenges

April was a busy month with working, planting and building. My produce from the garden is in a quiet lull while the early veggies are maturing and the fruit trees are flowering in rapid succession.

I've been able to harvest a bit of asparagus from my two year old bed. I must say there is no asparagus that tastes better than when it comes from your garden, all that crisp, sweet, tender goodness. Sautéed, blanched, raw, put in spring rolls, the options are endless. So happy to have a little veg from the garden.

I did get a couple of Urban Farm Handbook Challenges completed last month. The first was getting a couple of trellises  set up. I usually use a netting that can be found in the local hardware stores but the netting is hard to pull old vine off of and will only last a couple of seasons. This time around I used some old metal fence posts and some 2" x 4" wire mesh instead.  The mesh was easily secured by bending the ends around the posts and then where needed I using a couple of nylon ties.

Easy to install and made from simple materials

The snap peas seem to be loving the trellis!

The next challenge from Erica over at Northwest Edible Life was to plants seeds that you have never grown before.  I chose bunching onions, celery, shelling peas, and purple and yukon gold potatoes. I am having success with everything but the shelling peas which were potentially eaten by birds or rotted during the heavy rains. Needless to say, the peas have been replanted.

bunching onions

purple potato

I also acquired additional soil from an area where we are expanding our shop. I am excited about using the soil to building more garden boxes and I even have a rock sifter to get the hurkin rocks out.

This post is part of the Urban Farm Handbook Challenge.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sunny in Ballard

Last year we brought a couple of our favorite coffee cups from a potter at the Ballard Farmers Market. This last week both of them broke. The upside was we got to journey from far east Redmond to the super fun Ballard neighborhood.

We started at Cafe Besalu eating freshly baked pastry and lattes, then continued on to the farmers market where coffee cups were replaced, new plates were acquired, fresh veggies were put in the grocery bag and inspiration was found in Manila clams. It couldn't have been a better spring morning.

There were some awesome patterns found this morning too.

latte art

sidewalk patterning

The colors of the spring bouquets were really amazing and for $5.00 who could resist.

 amazing daffodils 

spring bouquet 

The  spring vegetables had a great showing.

tender fiddlehead ferns

fresh spring veggies

My favorite image from today is this father peddling a bicycle that provides the power to blend his smoothie while his little daughter looks on.

There is something about this neighborhood that really feels like community. People are interacting with each other, there are many independent stores and restaurants, and dogs everywhere. If we ever moved to the city, this would be one of the places I would seriously consider.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Photography Lesson

A couple of weekends ago, I flew to California and took a super fun workshop from Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple. This completely hands-on class was so engaging and such a great learning experience that I must say if you ever get a chance to take this workshop, just do it!  Here are a few pictures from my weekend.

I'm looking forward to using my newly developed photography skills and sharing the pictures and stories with you.

Adobe CS6 Photoshop

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Warm on My Feet

I ran outside yesterday to chase the deer from the yard and realized as my bare feet stepped onto the wet grass that there was a soft and warm sensation where the cold use to be. I had to stop and enjoy the moment. Feeling the warmth from the bottom of my feet wrapping around to the top was wonderful so I did a little squeal of delight. I knew then that the ground in the gardens was warming and ran to see what was emerging from the winter soil.


snap peas

Caroline raspberries




So happy for the warmth on my feet.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cranberry Meyer Lemon Scones

I love scones and I also love anything with cranberries and citrus. Here is a modified scone recipe from  Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour bakery cookbook.  These scones have lots of cranberries in every bite, and the fresh citrus flavor and aroma from the Meyer Lemons adds a nice zippy twist. Top them with the sweet and tangy glaze for the perfect treat with a cup of coffee or tea.

Scone Mix

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour

1/2 C sugar

1 T baking powder

3/4 t Kosher salt

zest from 2 Meyer Lemons

6 T unsalted butter cut into pea size pieces

1 1/2 C dried cranberries

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

1/2 C cream fraiche

1/2 buttermilk


juice from the 2 Meyer Lemons

1/3 C sugar

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl mix together eggs, cream fraiche and buttermilk.

Place flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and cranberries in mixing bowl and mix on low speed until ingredients are just combined.

Add the butter and mix until incorporated.

Slowly pour the egg, cream fraiche and buttermilk mixture into the flour and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. There will be dry ingredients on the bottom of the bowl and which can be incorporated by gently turning the dough over by hand and lightly kneading it in the bowl.

Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper and press the dough out into an eight to nine inch disc. Cut the disc into 8 pieces and move them apart. Place the parchment paper with scones onto a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. When done, cool and brush with lemon glaze. Please enjoy!