Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jungle theme baby shower cake

I know this doesn't tie much at all to the general topic of my blog (although I did use eggs from my chickens!), but I just had to post this picture. I made this cake for a friend's baby shower and am really proud of how it turned out. A few people at the shower asked if I do cakes professionally and while I haven't done that up to this point, I decided that I might start looking into it. I will keep you all posted on my progress - from my initial research it looks like there are a lot of licenses and permits I need so it may take awhile but I'm going to plug away at it and see if I can't get set up to go into business (on the side of course - I definitely can't quit my day job!).

Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Greek Lamb Shanks

I know it has been ages since I posted anything - and I definitely need to get you all some garden and chicken updates - but I made a great dinner last night and thought I should share the recipe. I modified a recipe from my mom with some ideas I got from a lamb shank recipe by Anne Burrell on Food Network - and viola!

This recipe can be made with beef stew meat, lamb stew meat or lamb shanks – all work well.

  • 2 lbs stew meat OR 2 large lamb shanks
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 whole cloves crushed
  • ½ tsp cinnamon & fresh ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg & allspice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ large sweet onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 5-6 baby carrots
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 14 ½ oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 c. dry red wine
  • ½ pkg whole frozen pearl onions
  • 10-20 pitted kalamata olives

In a food processor – purée the sweet onion, carrots, celery and garlic to a paste-like consistency.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Salt the meat well using the tsp of salt. In a large dutch oven heat 2 Tbsp of the oil and brown the meat thoroughly – do not skimp on this – the browning is essential to the flavor. Remove the meat from the pan, dump out the oil and add 2 Tbsp fresh oil to the pan. Add the puréed vegetables to the pan and cook until the vegetables purée starts to brown – do not let it burn – stir it frequently to ensure it does not burn. When it is golden in color add the spices (cloves – allspice) and cook a few minutes more. Then add tomato paste and cook another 3-4 minutes. Add the can of diced tomatoes, red wine, frozen onions and olives to the pan and bring back to a simmer. Add the meat back into the pan. The liquid should come just to the top of the meat or cover it slightly – if it does not – add water to bring the level of liquid up.

Cover the dutch oven and put it in the oven. For shanks – you will need to cook it about 3 – 3 ½ hours. Stew meat should go at least 2 hours to be tender. Check every 45 minutes during the cooking process and add more liquid if the sauce starts to get too thick or brown. If making shanks – turn the shanks over half way through the cooking process to ensure even cooking as the level of the liquid reduces. Be careful not to add too much water near the end of the cooking process, in the end you want a thick luscious sauce.

Either stew or shanks can be made up to a day in advance and warmed up – this stew is even better if it gets to sit for a half a day or overnight.

I like to serve this with a nice crusty bread to mop up the sauce!

Sorry no pictures - I was so anxious to dig in I forgot to take any :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Finally done

It is finally done! Well, the structure is anyway - I still need to get some more flagstone for in front of the coop - but the structure is done and the roof is on! I haven't painted the nest box yet so it is still in the garage, but the roost is in the house and the little girls are all moved in.
I think it will take them a little while to figure out the ladder to the hen house though. I put them into the house this afternoon before we left for some errands and when we came back they were down in the lower part, so at least they figured out the coming down the ladder part. Usually going up the ladder takes them a little longer to figure out. :)
Now that the new coop is done I need to get going on my fall garden. The broccoli, Brussel sprouts and Bok Choy in my living room really need to go outside. I really hope I can get the garden ready to go by the end of this week and get them in the ground. Then maybe I can just relax for a few weeks.... well, as much as I know how to relax anyway ;)
I guess I shouldn't plan to much rest anyway - the leaves are starting to fall here so that means soon my yard will be a pile of leaves and pecans. This year I need to try to actually pick up some of the pecans and do something with them. Perhaps it is because I am mildly allergic to them that I am never that inspired to cook much with them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Getting closer

I am getting closer but still not done. The hen house structure is done - it just needs a nest box and a roost and then its ready.

Once everything is in - the wire goes on the top and then the roof and a little wire on the the bottom of the front and it is DONE! I can't finish it this week but I am shooting for Sunday to be done.

I also got a little break to get into the garden and as forlorn as it looks right now there were still a few goodies to be found - a few eggplants, some yellow tomatoes and a handful of green beans - added to two lovely green eggs from Saturday and it made a lovely combination of colors in my kitchen :)

I also managed to cook up a few more Asian pork buns this weekend with the left over smoked pork shoulder that I froze a few weeks ago. They are just as yummy this time as last - I can't wait to try a Southwest version with some of the roasted Hatch chilies I froze.

Lately I have had too much work and not enough time in my yard and kitchen! I have so many things I want to do and not enough time to get it all done. I have broccoli, Brussel sprouts and Bok Choy growing in the corner of my living room and I need to get them outside but I need the coop done first. Goal for this weekend - coop done, veggies in the ground where they belong for the fall! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mini coop progress

Well, I was hoping to be done by now but you know what they say about the best laid plans.... Well, ok - in my case I didn't have a well defined plan so I have had some rework this time that has slowed me down. I had planned to arrange the sides and ends the opposite of how they are set up now, but did not account for the door opening into the coop when I thought out that plan (and no I didn't draw it - lesson learned), so I had to rearrange the sides.
Unfortunately for my plans, that made the whole coop 8 inches wider and now all of the purlins (roofing supports) are about 8 inches too short! So back to home depot to buy some more 2x2x8s, a few T brackets I forgot on the last trip, some gravel and sand for the floor and then I THINK I should be about there in terms of having everything I need to finish it off. Of course there is still more to stain and I need to paint the inside and build a nest box and cut the egg door into place and build a floor and put the roof wire and actual roof on and ..... well, you get the idea. So with all that to do, I don't think I will be done before the weekend. I hope I can finish it up by Sunday so the little girls can move into the new house. I think Athena (the Barred Plymouth Rock) may be getting close to egg laying age so I need a coop with a nest box for them soon!

Sandpaper Eggs

Sorry for the lack of posts - I have been swamped with work and my latest project. I finally decided to bite the bullet and build a permanent coop extension for the little girls to keep them safe from floods and from the big girls. I should have new pictures to post later this week to show the finished product - at least I hope I will!

In the meantime it seems the hammering and sawing etc. have stressed out Cadbury a little - her egg production this week and past weekend has been only two eggs in four days - normally she lays 6 or 7 days a week rarely skipping a day. She also laid what is called a "sandpaper" egg today. I had never heard of it or seen one so I checked on the backyard chicken forum (one of my favorite sources for chicken info of all kinds) and one of the users sent me a link (added to my list of favorites below) that talks about different kinds of eggs and what can cause it. It is a good source for me since is this my first adventure with chickens and sometimes changes in egg production can be a sign of illness. Luckily this one doesn't seem to be - it can be based on the info on the egg site - but in this case since Cadbury does not seem to have any other symptoms, I am guessing it is just the commotion in the yard. The picture above shows Cadbury's normal egg on the left and the sandpaper egg on the right. The sandpaper egg is much much lighter and the dark spot on the end is raised and very rough. The whole eggs feels a little rough - not smooth and glossy like her normal eggs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Smoking time

Smoking time in the new smoker! I got an inexpensive charcoal/wood smoker at Home Depot over the weekend and smoked a shoulder from the pasture raised pig I bought about a month ago. It was my first attempt to smoke something instead of grill it and I think it turned out pretty well. The smoke ring was about 1/2 inch into the pork and it tasted amazing. I meant to take a picture of it but didn't remember that plan once that shoulder finally came out of the smoker and it was time to eat!

Tonight - using the left overs I made some Asian Pork Buns. They turned out really well. I chopped up some of the left over shoulder, cooked down the pan drippings from the smoking process, added a little soy sauce and used that for the filling. I thought about using regular barbecue sauce and making them like pulled pork inside - but the smoke flavor was so good I hated to cover it up with barbecue sauce. The dough is a fairly simple to make -

  • 10 Tbsp milk
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large egg beaten (for dough)
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 Tbsp warm water
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 egg beaten (for egg wash)

Warm milk and butter together in a microwave safe bowl just until butter melts. In a medium sized bowl, put the 2 Tbsp water and the yeast and allow the yeast to soften. Whisk the egg in a bowl and add the warm milk and butter to the egg. Add the mixture to the yeast. In a sifter combine flour, sugar and salt and sift into the liquid mixture.

Stir until the dough comes together, then turn out on a lightly floured board and knead. You may need to sprinkle with a light dusting of flour to keep it from sticking - but use as little flour as possible. knead about 5 minutes and then put dough in a oiled bowl (turn to coat the dough lightly with oil), cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour in a warm place.

When the dough has risen and the filling is ready punch it down and divide it in half. Roll each half into a 12 inch log and cut each into 4-6 even pieces. roll the pieces into balls and press them flat and spread them out to about 4 inches across. The dough should be thicker in the middle than around the edges. Place 2-3 Tbsp of the filling in the center and pull the edges up together over the dough into a purse shape and pinch all of the seams together. Put filled bun seam side down on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Continue until all the buns are done. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of rising preheat the oven to 350. Before putting the buns in the oven - brush the tops with egg wash. Baking time depends a little on the size of the buns you make - generally 15-20 minutes is all it takes for the buns to become deep golden brown on top and sound slightly hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving.

I have had similar buns with a sweet red bean filling - I am hoping to find a good recipe for those and try them next. The great thing about the little buns is that you can freeze them for up to a month or refrigerate them for a week - simply rewarm in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes and they are ready to pop in a lunch box - no mess and nothing can fall out of the nice neat little package. I am going to experiment with some other fillings too - maybe Teriyaki chicken or ground pork with cabbage and ginger (like pot sticker filling) - I think you could even make lovely ones with grilled veggies inside.