Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bread Baking obsession

i've really been enjoying the process of making (and eating) homemade bread. So much so, that's i make at least one loaf a week.  i'd like to start making sour dough with a starter, but so far have just been making simple breads like challah and a basic honey white bread.



This recipe  by Don't Waste the Crumbs blog is my current go to for basic bread. It uses a little honey and coconut oil. i've been trying to find more recipes that use honey (since we'll soon have an abundance) and this one is just fantastic. 


Challah bread is the other bread i've enjoyed making. i use this recipe, but do a 4 strand brain instead of the double braid in the recipe. i've pretty much fallen in love with braiding bread.  

"The braided bread loaves were invented by the women of Teutonic tribes, who used to make offerings of their own hair to their Goddess. Eventually they learned to preserve their braids by substituting the imitative loaf, which was called Berchisbrod or Perchisbrod, bread offered to the Goddess Berchta, or Perchta."


i love to do the traditional 4 stranded Challah, and have also begun doing a braided round.  i was orginially just doing these as the plain honey white or wheat bread, but occasionally add filling as well.



Braided rounds  filled with cinnamon and sugar.  It way too good like this and we devoured this loaf quickly. 



This a garlic butter braided round, with a cinnamon sugar braid round behind it.




The Challah bread is my kids favorite because it is slightly sweet.  We've found it makes fantastic french toast, especially when it's filled with cinnamon and sugar. 

These are my go to recipes at the moment, but i'm always looking for new bread recipes to try. i'm planning to make a sprouted seed loaf and get started with the sour dough this month. i'm also going to try getting a bit more creative with my braiding.  



Honey, it's warming up outside!

i wouldn't say that winter is officially over, but we have been getting a few really nice days in between the crappy one.  On those days when it's over 60, we check on the bees.


We've been eager to check them all winter, but it has to be over 50 degrees outside to open the hive.  So we've had to patiently wait and hope for the best. It's not unusual to lose a few hives over the winter. We started the winter with 4 main hives (2 deeps, 2 regular) and 3 nucs. We had try to go into winter with 4 hives and 4 nucs, but one of our splits refused to accept a new queen and we eventually had to combined it back with it's regular hive.


When the temperatures are warm enough for the bees to fly, we know it's safe to do an inspection of the hive.  There isn't much pollen available yet, but the bees leave the hive to poop and clean out any dead bees that didn't survive the winter.


Inspection went well!  All of our hives survived the winter and appear to be thriving. We found all the queens and spotted new larvae and capped brood in all hives and nucs!!   The bees still have plenty of stores to get them into to the next honey flow.  So we should be able to pull a lot of honey this spring.


In the Spring, we have to watch for signs that the bees may swarm. We have two extra nuc boxes available if we need to split. We also have two queen castles and will attempt to raise our own queens.


Just this week i've started to see a few things blooming.  The bees are beginning to bring in some pollen from their daily flights.  Dandelions are the first spring food for bees..  As more things begin to bloom they should begin filling frames with pollen and nectar.  We are entering our second season with bees. It's has been a learning process for sure, but i'm really eager to see how they do this year.  i've been exploring lots of different recipes and uses for honey, and can't wait for our first honey harvest. We do plan to have some for sale in our Shady Grove Homestead store later this summer.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Cooking with Cave Tools (Sponsored).




i've been a bit obsessed with baking bread this winter. It was one of my goals for the year, to learn to bake homemade bread. i'd like to eventually start making sourdough, but so far i've just been making tradition bread and spicing the recipes up a bit by adding different things.

One thing about bread making that i've learned is important is knowing when the bake is done.  i'm not really experience enough to know just by sight. You can tap the bottom and the bread should sound hollow but i've found by experience that isn't always a sure sign that it's done.  If uncooked the bread with be dense and doughy inside, if over baked it may burn and will be too dry.  i have read that being slightly over baked is better than being unbaked, but i'd still like to learn the perfect bake.  Most breads are done at around 190 f, but this one is a whole wheat  sprouted seed loaf. The moisture from the sprouted seeds required a little cooking time. 


Having a digital thermometer to check the internal temp is really helpful. This one is by Cave Tools, a company that creates high quality barbecue and cooking tools that lasted for years.  The instant read digital thermometer is perfect for cooking food on the grill or in the kitchen. The 100% stainless steel design is waterproof, shatterproof and even re-calibratable for best accuracy. This digital thermometer can be used on meats, casseroles, liquids, deep fryers, candy etc.  Since i was testing out this thermometer, i tried it out on several different things.


i have a non-digital candy thermometer that usually use when making my cheese.  i tried calibrating a few weeks ago, because i suspected that it was off.  This time i used the digital thermometer, and i was right about the candy one being off!  This one is so much easier to use. It doesn't have to sit in the pot to register them the temperature. It's instant read. So it only take a second to get the temp, which can be crucial with cheese making and candy making. If your off by a few degrees it can be the difference between perfection and a failed batch. 


My mozzarella turned out perfect.  Being able to check the temperature and get an instant read is really important during the cheese making process.  


One more test for the Digital thermometer is candy making. i love to make candy, but every time i think i have it mastered i get a failed batch. i'm now realizing this is because my candy thermometer was so off.  i made a batch of honey taffy (i'll spot the recipe in a different post) and it came out so good!!  It's really easy to make and having a good instant read digital thermometer makes all the difference! 


i really love the way the honey taffy came out, and am looking forward to experimenting with some other honey candy recipes once we pull honey this spring and have lots to work with. i'm eager to make some homemade lemon honey cough drops, and elderberry honey lozenges.

If you do a lot of grilling outside or just love cooking, Cave tools has something for you! They specialize in high quality, stainless steel tools, but also have salad spinners, instant read thermometers, silicone grilling mitts and much more. 

You can check out their full line of products at Cavetools.com or on Amazon

i'll post the recipes for all of these later this week!


disclaimer. i did not receive compensation for this post, however i did receive a free product to review in exchange for my opinion. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. This post may contain affiliate links.

Signs of Spring 2019

 This winter has felt extra long so any signs that spring is near have been especially welcome.  Somehow between the snow, ice and cold rain we've had a couple days of sunshine. i get out and hike on those days needing every little bit of sunshine i can absorb.


 The kids missed school again on Friday due to winter weather. Saturday was cold, dreary and rainy and then on Sunday the sun came out and the temps jumped to the high 60's!  We spent the day outside cleaning up gardens, inspecting our bee hives and hiking the woods.

Coltsfoot is one of the very first wildflowers to appear in the spring. Coltsfoot is native to Europe and is considered an invasive weed here.  However, it is edible.  The flowers can be eaten. They can be tossed into salads to add a wonderful aromatic flavor; or fill a jar with the flowers and add honey to make a remedy to help calm a cough or to sweeten a bitter herbal tea.  There are some reports of the roots and leaves containing toxins.
Hairy Bittercress is another early spring flower. Another non-native this plant is great for salads, salsa, pestos and anywhere you would use raw cress with a flavor similar to arugula.  Both the flowers and leaves are edible.



The bees have been all over the hairy bittercress, as there is very little pollen available to them right now.  The bees are mostly still surviving on their winter stores of honey, but on sunny day they are out foraging for pollen, and cleaning out the hive.




Another sure sign of spring is when the hens begin to lay again.  They've been on a break since November. i have been getting a few eggs each week, most of my birds stopped laying completely over the winter. As the days begin to get longer, the hens return to their regular cycle.


i've been really trying to focus on my egg colors. Last year i breed my olive eggers, marans and easter eggers in an attempt to get better egg colors. It seemed like the universe was against me.  i had a hen setting on 10 eggs and one by one all of the olive eggs disappeared.  i was left with 3 remaining eggs which hatched out into two girls and one boy. Of the two girls one is Maran and lays dark brown eggs. The other is a Maran cross of some sort and lays a medium brown sometimes rose colored eggs.


My second attempt at hatching out olive eggers and marans had pretty much the same outcome. One by one the eggs i was trying to hatch out disappeared, however there was no shortage of wild hens hatching farm yard mix chicks. Over 20 new chicks hatched out and i got ONE olive egger. She is third generation so her eggs are extra dark. i'm super thrilled, but was really hoping for more than one green egg layer. i thought for sure i'd have several shades of green.  Instead i have a ton of cream and light beige eggs.

The next sign of spring is when my wild hens start hiding their eggs. i'm really hoping to avoid that this year. i've already given away over a dozen roosters from the last hatch, and am going to be re-homing some hens as well once i figure out for sure who is laying what. 

After such a beautiful day the temps are dropping again, and tomorrow we are back to a low of 30.  i'm hoping to get some seeds started in the greenhouse this week, but with lows below freezing my seedlings wouldn't survive even in the greenhouse.  So i may just spend the week planning out the gardens. Yesterday's sunshine was very welcome, even my kids left their rooms (without being forced) to get out and hike.  i'm really looking forward to the warmer days ahead.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Help Grow the Rebellion with Rebel Gardens! Review and Giveaway!



"Rebel Gardens is about invoking the spirit of WW2 Victory Gardens. But this time we grow not to support a war but to support a Rebellion. The industrial food system is slowly destroying our health and we are not going to take it anymore. Plant a seed with us and grow the rebellion! "

On the surface Rebel Gardens is just a seed company. But under the surface they are actually something a little different.  Their real goal isn't just selling seeds, the real goal is undermining the industrial food system. In a nutshell they believe that our modern food system is not healthy for our bodies, for our planet, for anything really and they we want to be a part of the solution.


Yesterday, we had a Snow day!! What better day to go through my seeds and start planning out my gardens. This year i'm trying to put more of a focus on planting for pollinators. Our honey bees need more flowers! i'm turning one of my vegetable garden beds into a flower bed and am including more caterpillar host plants. Herbs like dill, parsley and fennel are great for the Black Swallowtails. The flowering herbs are all great for the bees!


Rebel Gardens offers a Culinary Variety pack that contains 10 packages of  organic herb seeds. Their seeds are certified organic, non-gmo, heirloom and USA grown and packed!



Rebel Gardens is growing company out of Canby, OR that offers organic, Non GMO, Heirloom Seeds. i got the herb collection, which has a really nice variety of different herbs. -They also offer several different collections.  The Survival pack is probably the best deal. It has 28 packs of seeds for $29.99, but there is a coupon code that drops it down to $19.99. That's less than $1 per pack for organic heirloom garden seeds! 



The Generous folks at Rebel Gardens have offered a Survival Garden-Organic Seed Bank collection to one of my readers!  This collection features 28 packs of organic, heirloom, non-gmo vegetable and flower seeds.   

Can't wait for the giveaway? You can purchase the Survival Garden Collection here.  Be sure to clip the coupon code to save 35% off you purchase! 

Now for the giveaway!

 One lucky reader will win the Survival Garden Collection.

Enter below using the rafflecopter form (it might take a minute to load). One entry per person/IP address. US only. The winner will have 48 hours to respond by email or another winner may be chosen



Connect with Rebel Gardens

You can find them on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/GrowTheRebellion/ 
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rebelgardens/
Also if you add Rebel Gardens on messenger chat https://manychat.com/l2/GrowTheRebellion , they send you a 20% off coupon which can be used on any order.




disclaimer. i did not receive compensation for this post, however i did receive a free product to review in exchange for my opinion. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. This post may contain affiliate links.