Friday, December 18, 2009

Lemon Curd

I love lemon curd as a treat. There's nothing quite like it on a scone or toast for breakfast and it makes one feel quite English! With a hot cup of tea... ah, well. It's just wonderful. And easy, easy, easy to make. I would have thought that it was much more difficult, like making truffles or something.

Lemon Curd

4 egg yolks
4 1/2 ounces sugar
3 ounces lemon juice
2 ounces butter
a pinch of salt

NOTE: Use a non-reactive cook pot to make this recipe!

Crack and separate 4 egg yolks into your pot...

Add sugar and salt...

Mix well...

Add lemon juice...

and butter...

Stir constantly over medium-low heat. Do NOT leave your pot even for a minute! And don't allow this to boil either. It burns easily and will ruin the entire batch. Continue cooking until butter is melted and the first bubbles start to appear.

Strain as you pour into glass jars...

Make it look as pretty as you like and store in the refrigerator. And enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bella Pamela Aprons

I've recently discovered Bella Pamella Aprons. Yes, these are the cadillac of domestic uniforms! Vintage prints and styles are married with ingenious fit for a darling and yet practical apron. I've seen few others that are so well thought out and executed. A must have item for every adored mother. And if you order by December 19th, Pam's website says she can get it there for Christmas. Here's a sampling of her wares:

The Eunice...

I love the back on it!

The Katherine...
a crisscross back...

And the Nora...

A classic design...
My heart melts when I see these darling children's aprons...

So sweet!!

And to complete the look, a head wrap that Pam calls The Lucy Hair Snug...

If you need this shipped directly, Bella Pamella will wrap it in this darling package for an extra charge. Who wouldn't love this gift?

If my family is reading this post, I'll take the Eunice in the green Dotty Plaid Fabric!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chicken Coop Inspiration

Doesn't it just seems too daunting to make chickens, with all their dust, feathers, and droppings, lovely? I mean, we all want our gardens to look pretty and inviting; the walk up to the front porch, the sitting area on the back patio, the drive up to the garage... but then we get to the vegetable garden and coop and somehow all our inspiration seems to evaporate.

I think a little motivation is in order, don't you? Even with the Hen Hilton going in, right now it seems to just be four walls with some doors and windows (well made, mind you, but still a box at this point). Here are a few favorite inspirational chicken coops that excite me...

The first four pictures are from Bonnie Manion at VintageGardenGal. I just love how she has incorporated her flowers around the runs!

Is that foxglove? And chrysanthemums? Why, I do think those girls are happy layers because their view is so fabulous!

And these must be early spring lilies. Some thing different for each season. What a great idea!

Two views of the coop itself show this wonderful vine growing with pink flowers up and over the top. Certainly softens the hard lines on an otherwise plain side of a hen house.

The next two photos I found ages ago and saved them for my own coop plans. I adore this "lean to" style run on the side of this pale yellow chicken house. The Hen Hilton will get one of these on the right side for new chicks each spring and for all the girls once they are old enough and acquainted. (I tried for an hour to locate the source of this photo and the next two, but finally gave up. If any of these should be your coop, please let me know and I'll certainly give credit and post a link!)

What do you think of the red and white school house look? Cheery! That front door was inspiration for the Hen Hilton as well. And those tall runs. A must have. I'm so tired of bending over in the smaller runs. How am I suppose to do that years from now when I'm an old lady and all the kids are grown and gone? Think long term, gals! Build for the future!

The copula is lovely, yes? Mmmm... I'm thinking about that one. Might add that as a finishing touch in a year or two - after a few other projects are completed!

Wow! What a great idea to add a trellis to one end. It looks lovely even without anything growing on it. And it doesn't hurt that it opens up right into the garden area. Nice.

Okay, before you even look at the next picture, I have to tell you that THIS one was my dream. I wanted a rustic little home for my girls with all this lovely finery (but my wonderful man just couldn't bring himself to build anything but what he thought was best). Simple and elegant. That's what I say. But truthfully, it's really the roses that say it all...

Country Home Magazine/ March 2008, pg. 72

Did it take your breath away like it did mine? And aren't the chickens so pretty up against those flowers? Makes me swoon a bit.

Here's how I see it. Unless you're using an old rusted out vehicle or an old washer as your chicken coop (which I did see when surfing the net), you can make just about anything look great if you add some paint and 'get your green on' by planting a little garden around it. My own will have light sage green siding with a light tan trim (due to CC & R's I have to abide by). Then I bought two bridal veil spirea plants and some boxwoods to place around the edge somewhere. I'm thinking a white lady banks rose bush on one side. And since some of the coop is in the shade, I'll probably add some hosta and maybe a silver lace vine. Along the fence behind it, I want to add some iceberg roses. Kind of a white and green theme. Simple, but hopefully beautiful.

Want to share your chicken coop? Add a comment with a link to your post and photo. We'd love to see!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chicken Coop Update

I know most everyone else finished their summer projects at least two months ago, but we're still working on our big project at River Rock Cottage. The Hen Hilton now has the roof on and all but two boards of the siding! Yahoo!

As you can see from the pictures, the girls have already moved in and are making themselves at home. The run is very small right now and not really adequate for the long haul. But we should be able to start painting this next weekend if the weather cooperates. Then the work on the runs can finally begin. Last will come the permanent windows. In the meantime we've covered the openings with chicken wire and heavy gauge plastic sheeting. Believe me, it's very toasty in there and they are happy hens. Almost everyone is laying daily (keyword being almost!).

Since the weather will turn on us soon, we may not get it all done this fall. But, I can assure you there are plenty of indoor projects waiting for my dear husband should that happen. It's never all done and thus I keep telling my girls to learn to enjoy the journey of the work itself.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Basic Whole Wheat Bread

As promised, I'm posting a Whole Wheat Bread Recipe for making a loaf of sandwich bread that I like to use. I believe I got this from Sue Becker's Cookbook, so I want to be sure to give her credit. She has several very informative articles on her website, Bread Beckers, that you might wish to read sometime! As I go through the recipe I will be highlighting tips that will really make a difference. Be sure to read through these a couple of times before you begin. Also, I've added as many pictures as I could so that you could see what it should look like.

Whole Wheat Bread
2 C. warm water (110 - 115 degrees)
1/3 C. olive oil
1/4 C. honey (I like to use raw honey)
1 egg
3 1/2 tsp. yeast
5-6 C. whole wheat flour (I like to use Prairie Gold freshly milled)
2 tsp. sea salt

Tools Needed:
mixer with dough hook
bowl or container for proofing
two loaf pans 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2"
basic measuring spoons, cups, etc.

tipbring all ingredients to room temperature so that a cold ingredient doesn't deactivate your yeast. I keep my yeast in the freezer to keep it fresh and so this is very important.

tipgrease your mixing bowl generously with olive oil as well as the dough hook. This will keep the dough from climbing the hook while you are kneading it! It may get near the top, but it shouldn't go over and into the mechanism.

Combine water, oil, honey, and egg in mixing bowl.

Add yeast and then three cups of flour and salt.

tipif your mixing bowl is stainless steel and the temperature in your room is causing the bowl to be very cold, either heat the bowl with warm water before beginning, or be sure that your water is right at 115 degrees because the cold bowl can bring down the temperature.

tipmeasure your oil first and then honey using the same measuring cup. This will help the honey come out easily and completely.

tipalways add the salt with the flour so as not to kill the yeast. I usually add it to the third cup of flour.

Continue adding two more cups of flour. On the sixth cup, add only as needed. Starting timing your kneading process with a timer for 10 minutes. Watch the dough as it kneads and add just a bit more flour here and there as you see it getting too sticky and leaving too much on the sides of the bowl.

tipseveral factors will determine how much flour you must add at this point. Try not to add any more than necessary as it will make your bread heavy. It should be a bit sticky, but not so sticky as to leave dough on your hands when you touch it. Eventually, the bowl sides should be fairly clean by the kneading process.
Transfer dough to a well greased container for proofing (rising). Roll the dough over to coat it with oil. Cover and place in a warm location. Proof until doubled in size.

tipI like to use a food grade commercial tub with a matching lid. These come in various sizes with quart and liter markings on the side. You can purchase these through King Arthur Flour or at Smart 'N Final or at a restaurant supply store.
Note: my oven has a special proofing feature on it that sets the temperature at just the right amount for rising bread. Most ovens do NOT have this feature and do not attempt to use your oven for this if you don't have this setting unless your oven is gas and you use ONLY the pilot light. If you get your oven too hot, it will kill your yeast. Some options for warm locations include, above a refrigerator, dryer, or in an Excalibur dehydrator. If none of these work for you, I use to put a cooling rack over my sink that was filled with very hot water. I placed the dough in a shallow bowl on the cooling rack and covered the entire sink with a large light weight kitchen towel. This worked just fine before I was blessed with this new oven.
After the bread has doubled in size, turn out, punch down, and shape into two loaves.

tipcut the dough into two loaves that are close to the same size as possible. Don't worry about a lot of kneading at this point, but you need to get the air pockets out. I like to roll the bread out into a rectangle and then start on the narrow end and roll tightly keeping it from growing longer than my loaf pan.

Place into loaf pans and brush with melted butter.

Proof again, letting the loaves rise to just above the top of the loaf pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and then turn out of the pans.

tip: don't allow bread to rise too high or it will start to collapse over the sides of your loaf pan and become difficult to remove. 

bread will be done when you tap on it and it sounds hollow.
To remove bread from pan, slip a flat edge tool around the sides to loosen. When you turn out the bread, lay it on a cooling rack on its side to prevent it from collapsing while it is hot.


resist all temptation to slice hot bread! It will cause it to be gummy! Allow it to cool completely before slicing. (Unless you like gummy bread of course and you're not using it for sandwiches or toast.)

I hope you will find all these tips helpful. I can't think of anything more frustrating than spending all that time making bread only to have it come out so-so or poorly. I know, because it's happened to me. And sometimes, for strange and unknown reasons, a loaf will have a "bad day" and just won't be what I expected. But over time, my breads have come out consistently nice and with just the texture I need for making sandwiches. If you still have a problem, check out the Baking911 troubleshooting page. It is very informative and should help you determine what went wrong.

In the future, I will be posting additional articles that contain more information for making homemade breads. I hope to explore sour doughs, artisan breads, and more! After all, bread is the staff of life, right?


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