Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No Knead Crusty Bread ~ So Easy!



This bread experiment was everything I had hoped it would be and more!  I wanted to share my test run with you so you can give it a try if you like.  I found the recipe on Pinterest.  The pin originated from a great blog that you should take a peek at...Simply So Good.  The original post for her Crusty Bread can be found here.  I tell you this not only to give her credit, but so you can go to the post and read all of the comments which are chock full of tips and hints as well as variations of this bread which seem to be never-ending!  My little post is just the beginning ~ hers gives you so much more information and ideas! 


You will need a cast iron dutch oven or lidded pot.  Enameled cast iron will also work, as will any oven ready pan with a tight lid.  I used a black cast iron dutch oven that I found at our local Fry's grocery store for $39.99.  There are others that cost much more if you want to give them a try.  I do recommend reading reviews of each brand, as some of the enameled ones have had problems with cracking and peeling...not all, but some.

Then get ready for the easy peasy instructions...here we go!


Ingredients:

  • 3 cups          white unbleached flour (you can experiment with other flours)
  • 1 3/4 t          salt (kosher is suggested, but I used sea salt and it tasted great)
  • 1/2 t             yeast (I used dry active)
  • 1 1/2 cups    water
      If you use yeast that calls for disolving in water, be sure to count that water towards your total.

Directions:


In large bowl, add your flour and salt.  Add yeast if you are using instant, otherwise add it with the water. 

 


Whisk the dry ingredients to mix. 


 

Next, add water (and yeast with water) and mix.



The dough will be sticky and look funky, but that's what it is supposed to do.


 

Cover the dough with saran wrap or press n seal and let sit on the kitchen counter for 12 - 18 hours.  DON'T PUT IT IN THE REFRIGERATOR!  It needs to proof for all those hours.  It will rise, so be sure your bowl is large enough.

After it rises (mine didn't double in size, but did come up some), it will look sticky but that's normal. 

Place your empty pan or dutch oven in a preheated oven at 450 degrees and let it heat up for 30 minutes.   While it is heating, move the dough to a well-floured board or mat and shape it into a round mound.  Mine was too moist and didn't shape well, but have faith...it will still turn out okay!




After 30 minutes, take your pan out of the oven and carefully place the dough in the very hot pan...watch your hands!  Flouring your hands before you do this will help since it is so sticky.  Mine was actually like the blob, and kept sliding off my hands, but I a managed to sneak it into the pot anyway!

Place pan back in oven with lid on and bake for 30 minutes.  Take lid off and bake for another 15 minutes.  Even with my flat dough and wrestling to get the blob into the pan, this is what I ended up with...


Remove from pan - it doesn't stick, just comes out clean - and cool on a rack.  Mine tasted yummy, tho' it was a bit course looking.  I may need to add a bit more flour and stir and handle less to get a finer look.  But, as Janet says, this is a very forgiving bread!   My Hubby loved it, too!  I took some to my neighbor and she also loved it!

Success!  Now to experiment with some of the variations mentioned on Janet's post!  I can't wait to bake it again! 

Happy baking!


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Huge Green Hugs,Pat



Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tips to Attract & Feed Wild Birds in the Winter


 
 
Do you like to feed wild birds and/or watch them flit around your yard and garden?  I do.  I have several bird feeders in our yard and near windows so I can have a front row seat for nature.  Their antics and pecking order (pun intended) are fascinating to me.  I came across these tips and want to share them with you.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to feed wild birds this winter when their food becomes scarce.
 
1. You are making a commitment
 
You accept a responsibility when you decide to take on wild bird feeding.  Keep in mind that you will need to purchase bird feed often, and make trips out to your bird feeder at least several times a week (daily in our neighborhood) to refill  the feeders or clean up the area.  (Birds can be very messy!)  And once you begin, the birds will learn to depend on your offerings.  They will return hungry and often!
 
2. The right food
 
Certain birds like certain foods.  The secret to attracting birds to your backyard is to feed specific to find out what kinds of birds are in your area and which ones you want to attract. Then buy the feed accordingly.  
 
Here are the preferred diets of some of the more common backyard birds.
 
- Sunflower seeds: black-capped chickadees, blue jays, dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, gold finches, evening grosbeaks
- White millet: mourning doves, house finch, gold finch
- Cracked corn: cardinals, mourning doves, pigeons, blue jays, starlings
- Peanuts: tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, red and white-breasted nuthatches, hairy and downy woodpeckers
- Suet: black-capped chickadees, evening grosbeaks, house and gold finches
 
Sparrows will eat all of the above except peanuts.
 
3. The right feeder
 
Some birds, such as mourning doves and black-eyed juncos, prefer feeding on the ground. If you want to attract ground-feeders, be sure you have some sort of covering in the form of shrubbery or fencing, as ground-feeding tends to attract predators. If you have a hanging feeder, it's still a good idea to provide protection for ground-feeders because some of the seed will fall to the ground, attracting ground-feeding birds. For hanging feeders, get one that is sturdy and has a guard against squirrels and raccoons.  You may also want one or two feeders that are built just for the smaller birds so the larger ones don’t dominate them.  Give the larger birds a different one or two. 
 
4. Plant trees and shrubs that produce winter berries
 
Another way to attract birds to your back yard is to have plants that bear fruit in the winter.  Examples include dogwood, American holly, wax myrtle, and firethorn. These are also lovely landscape plants, and they provide protection for their feathered munchers in the form of thorns or dense growth.  I wonder if any of these grow well in our high desert climate.  Looks like a little research is in order!
 
5. Water
 
A water source such as a birdbath also attracts birds. In the winter, you will need to keep the water from freezing either by hand (such as pouring warm water into it periodically) or by purchasing a commercial birdbath that uses electricity to heat the water.  Gosh…who knew there was such a thing?  Guess I need to wander the garden centers more often!
 
6. Be patient
 
It often takes a few days for the birds to discover your buffet.  If you are willing to wait, however, some feathered friends will eventually show up.  As word gets around, more and more birds will come to your feeder and you will be blessed with many bird watching opportunities.
 
Have fun with your new-found feathered friends and let us know how it goes!  What birds visit your feeders?


  If you like this post, be sure to follow this blog before you leave! It's easy peasy...just choose one or more of the options on the right sidebar!

Huge Green Hugs,Pat



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Alfalfa ~ It's Not Just For Cows!

 
  When I was in high school, I participated in a science fair with my alfalfa brownies.  I had read about the vitamins, minerals and nutrients contained in this plant, and since we lived on five acres and had a large alfalfa field, it was a natural fit for me.  I wanted to see if I could actually grind the dried leaves into a flour and make brownies.  As luck would have it, I was able to accomplish all that, and to my amazement, they actually tasted good!   

It has been years since I have thought about those brownies, but I have become a huge fan of alfalfa sprouts, using them in salads and on sandwiches.  


Now, I have found some vegetarian alfalfa sprout recipes I want to share with you!
    Alfalfa sprouts are a crunchy, fresh food which is easily found in the produce section of your favorite grocery store.  They are full of nutrition.  Even though we pretty much know about using them on our salads, they really deserve some recipes of their own.  Here are some ideas for adding them to your diet, and instructions on how to sprout your own. 
 
Alfalfa Sprouts

Pour one cup of warm, filtered water into a wide-mouth, quart jar.  (I used a tiered sprouter found online or in stores.)  Add 1 tablespoon of alfalfa seeds and stir. Cover with a coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band. Let it sit overnight. In the morning, pour off the water and add some fresh, filtered water. Swirl the seeds around and drain most of the water (use a strainer as you rinse the seeds to make sure you don't lose any). Cover the jar again with the coffee filter and rubber band.
 
 

Lay the jar on its side so that the seeds spread along the side of the jar (you may have to shake it a bit). Keep the jar in a dark, cool place and repeat the rinsing of the seeds once daily. (For me, this would be our pantry, which stays cooler than the rest of the kitchen.)  In about 36 hours, you should see the beginnings of sprouts. At that time, move the jar out into the light, preferably where it can get some sun. Continue to rinse the sprouts as they grow, and when they reach the desired length, refrigerate them in the jar.  Voila!  Your very own DIY alfalfa sprouts!
Okay, now for the recipes...  


Hummus Wrap (serves 1)

Ingredients:
* 1 whole wheat tortilla
* Hummus
* Roasted red pepper strips
* Alfalfa sprouts
* Grated sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
Spread about 1/4 cup of hummus down the middle of the tortilla. Layer cheese (if using), red pepper strips, and sprouts on top of the hummus. Fold one side of the tortilla over the contents; fold the other side in and serve seam-side down.  Mmmm, my mouth is watering!
 

Fruit and Nut Salad (serves 1)

Ingredients:
* 1 cup shredded lettuce
* 1/2 cup mandarin orange segments
* 1/4 cup sunflower seeds or slivered almonds
* 1/2 cup (or more) alfalfa sprouts
* Raspberry vinaigrette to taste (optional)
Place shredded lettuce in bowl. Top with mandarin orange segments, alfalfa sprouts, and sunflower seeds or slivered almonds. Toss together with some raspberry vinaigrette if you like, but the juicy mandarin oranges and fresh-tasting alfalfa sprouts may well eliminate the need for dressing.  Healthy, tempting and delish!
 
 

Sprout Sandwich (serves 1)

Ingredients:
* 2 slices whole wheat bread
* 1 avocado
* 1-2 slices of fresh tomato
* 2-3 rings of red onion
* Safflower oil mayonnaise
* Generous handful of sprouts
* Tofu lunch meat (optional)

Spread mayonnaise on both slices of bread. Layer lunch meat (if using), sprouts, avocado, tomato, and onion on one slice of bread; top with the other.  Easy to prepare, good for you, too!
 

Sprout Juice

For a healthy, green juice, try whizzing the following in a blender:

* 1 cup spinach leaves
* 1 cup chard leaves, chopped
* 1 cup alfalfa sprouts
* Squeeze of lemon juice
* Water

Add lemon juice to taste, and water to achieve the desired consistency.  This will be tested in my new juicer just as soon as I run to the grocery store!
 
Alfalfa sprouts also make a good topping for gazpacho and other soups. In fact, they can be used as a topping for all kinds of dishes, from stir-fry to - whoa...check this out - ice cream!  Really! Do you have some alfalfa sprout recipes you like to fix?  Would you share your recipes and tell us about them in the comment section?  We'd love to try yours, too!

    If you like this post, be sure to follow this blog before you leave! It's easy peasy...just choose one or more of the options on the right sidebar!

Huge Green Hugs,Pat


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