Friday, March 30, 2012

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

I saw this recipe for Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate on Freedom Acres Farm.  That was one of the reasons I wanted a large pot for waterbath canning.  Since I got one for $5 at a yard sale and then got a free rack to go inside of it, I was ready to try this recipe.  I love that it only takes four ingredients - strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, and water.

Our strawberry bed is too new to produce much so these are purchased strawberries.  Growing your own would make this recipe quite frugal.

Coarsely chop the berries and toss in a food processor.  Process until they are smooth.

The remaining ingredients are added.  Everything gets heated for a bit.  Then it goes into jars and gets processed in the waterbath for 20 minutes. 

I ended up with 6 quarts and a pint.  I did have a bit leftover so I got a taste.  It was delicious!  The flavors blended together very well.  It is not too sweet.  The concentrate is mixed with equal parts water although my husband mentioned that it would be good mixed with club soda.  If I can catch strawberries on sale again, I will definitely be making a second batch!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chickens and Ducks

I have not shared any pictures of our chickens recently.  First up are the buff cochins.  One of the roosters is very chatty.  When he sees us, he makes fast chirping sounds.

These are the Mille Fleurs.

Next is Elizabeth, a Belgium quail bantam.

This is her mate, Theodore.  Elizabeth and he have a hanging perch in their pen, and they love to swing.  They stretch their necks out to get it moving.  It is quite a sight.

Andre the Giant is a gray cochin.  He looks huge but is really mostly feathers.

Pierre is a cochin also.  We will be putting him in the Partridge cochins when they are bigger.

Shaggy is keeping a watchful eye on me and is quite protective of Daphne and Velma.

Foghorn is a Leghorn.  He looks imposing but is a sweetie.

We had four ducks but sadly one passed away.  We are hoping to have some baby ducks soon.  In the meantime, these three keep us entertained.

This is Marigold.  Her penmates were quite mean to her.  Marigold now roams wherever she pleases.  She can go into the main areas of the chicken house or can go out the back with the ducks.  Here she has access to grass and lots of fresh air.  I like to think that Marigold is having the last laugh. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I had four raspberry plants last year.  They were in large containers and did okay.  I ordered five more this year.  They arrived on Thursday.  This was the perfect opportunity to get my husband to help set out those plus the ones from last year.  As we removed the older ones from their pots, we found that they had multiplied.  We ended up with 12 plants.  I am looking forward to yummy fresh raspberries.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March Daring Bakers' Challenge - Dutch Crunch Topping

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

I bake bread two to three times a week but had never encountered anything like the Dutch Crunch topping used in this challenge.  The topping included rice flour which I did not have . Amazon came to the rescue and my UPS man delivered a bag just as I needed to make hamburger buns.

First I prepared the dough for my hamburger buns as usual and let them rise.

Next I mixed up the Dutch Crunch topping and spread it on top of half of the buns.  I tried to get it as thick as possible.

Here are my finished tiger hamburger buns.  I had a bit of trouble getting them as brown as I would have liked.

Finally my sandwich which is far from one of a kind but was yummy.  I toasted the bun along with a slice of provolone cheese.  I added tuna salad and some lettuce from my greenhouse.

Dutch Crunch Topping

Servings: This recipe should make sufficient topping for two 9x5 loaves (23cmx13cm) or 12 rolls. If you make only 6 rolls in the first soft white roll recipe, you can cut the topping recipe in half.

We’ve provided this recipe first because it is the mandatory aspect of the challenge. Note, however, that you should not prepare the topping until the bread you’ve selected to bake is almost finished rising (~15 minutes from baking).

2 tablespoons (2 packets) (30 ml) (15 gm/½ oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) warm water (105-115ยบ F) (41-46°C)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (240 gm/8½ oz) rice flour (white or brown; NOT sweet or glutinous rice flour) (increase by 1 cup or more for home-made rice flour)
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk; beat hard to combine. The consistency should be like stiff royal icing – spreadable, but not too runny. If you pull some up with your whisk, as shown below, it should drip off slowly. Add more water or rice flour as necessary. Let stand 15 minutes.
2. Coat the top of each loaf or roll with a thick layer of topping. We tried coating it with a brush but it worked better just to use fingers or a spoon and kind of spread it around. You should err on the side of applying too much topping – a thin layer will not crack properly.
3. Let stand, uncovered, for any additional time your recipe recommends. With the Soft White Roll, you can place the rolls directly into the oven after applying the topping. With the Brown Rice Bread, the loaves should stand for 20 minutes with the topping before baking.
4. When baking, place pans on a rack in the center of the oven and bake your bread as you ordinarily would. The Dutch Crunch topping should crack and turn a nice golden-brown color.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Greenhouse and Garden Area

I spent much of my time trying to empty the greenhouse.  Since it has been in the 80s, the greenhouse is unbearably hot.  I have the door open but still needed to get everything except the seedlings out.  We have had two hail storms recently so I am not rushing to get the tiny seedlings out just yet.

Here are some tomato and pepper plants.

These are petunia plants.  I will be putting them in planters on the porch once they are a bit bigger.

I have planted cucumber seeds in these.  I also planted some zucchini, yellow squash, cantaloupe, and watermelon seeds.  These 30 pots are just cucumbers though.

Last year we tossed our rotting decorative pumpkins in the area where the old raised bed was.  I knew I would end up with lots of pumpkin plants.  I should probably thin them out, but I prefer to let nature take its course.  They are in an area of the yard where they can take over with no problems.

This is my accidental potato plant.  I threw some potatoes into my compost pile and one of them obviously sprouted.  Hopefully in another month I will have potatoes.

I cleaned out two of the raised beds.  I planted Indian corn and popcorn in one.  In the second I planted bell and banana pepper plants.  I also have some surprise carrots that sprouted.  I planted carrot and radish seeds as they should have time to make before they tomatoes overtake the area. 

We have been growing lettuce in containers in the greenhouse.  I moved it outside last week.  Soon I will feed this to the chickens and plant some more.  These are my mom's containers for tomato plants, and she will need them back once the tomato plants above are big enough to transplant.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Next I went to work on the deck in the backyard.  This is our little oasis in the spring and summer months.  We along with the cats enjoy sitting out there.  We have a bird feeder, birdbath, and hummingbird feeders nearby.  It is peaceful and lovely with all of the flowers and plants.

Here is a sideways picture of one of the many iris blooms around the deck.  I planted a bunch of bulbs a few years ago, but there are the only ones that have survived.  Sorry again for the sideways photo.

This little petunia sprouted back and was buried in the weeds.  I love the splash of color that it adds.

This pot along with a matching one will hold two of our pineapple plants.  My dear husband rescued these from the recycling drop-off.  They did not look so nice when he brought them home.  That was fixed with a can of Krylon Fusion paint.  I wanted to get a before shot but he was too quick about painting them.  Here is a shot that will give you an idea of the before.  Paris (our cat) is being helpful by pointing out the before area.

I saw this either in a magazine or on Pinterest.  I already had the planter bottom but was not using it for anything.  All but the largest hen were gifts from a friend.

More clearanced  plants.  The white dianthus was from the previously mentioned purchase.  The blue flowering plant was $1.  The red geraniums were $1.25 each.  I think when it fills in it will be a nice red, white and blue display.

Ugh, another sideways picture!  On the top is a kiwi plant.  Our other two were a tasty snack for my parents' ducks.  This one is being kept safely away from them.  I will buy another next year most likely.  It is a hybrid and does not need a second but does better with one.  The bottom is a dwarf lemon tree.  I am very happy with how well it is growing.

Wisteria is normally considered an invasive plant.  We have kept this one trimmed back though.  It will never get much bigger than this with proper pruning.  I think they are pretty.

Finally is our pineapple corner.  The plants took a bit of a hit from the cold but should come back out.

Stop back Monday and we will head out to the greenhouse!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Front Porch

Since I started working on the front porch before any other part of the yard, I decided to show that first.  I will be adding a few more containers of flowers later, but it looks nice for now.  I have several hanging baskets of dianthus.  I added in some green plants in hanging baskets in between.  The dianthus were purchased on clearance in early winter.  I think I spent $0.50 for a pack of six plants.  I put two to three in each hanging basket. 

Here is one side of the front door.  The small pot at the front has clearance flowers.  The Japanese ferns are three years old.  This will be year two of the hens.  I hope to get some chicks soon.  The pansies still looked good so I left them in the large pot and added a couple more clearance plants.  You can see those better in the picture below.  We spent $1 on the larger plant and $0.50 on the pink flowering plant.  I have $3 in the two pots on the porch.

Each fall I buy some mums to include in my fall decorations.  I usually find a spot in the yard to put them.  This year I decided to keep them in pots so I will not have to buy more for fall decorating.  For now they are gathered in one corner of the porch.

I saw this in a much larger version on day one of Peaches to Beaches.  I was not willing to pay $12.  I found a smaller pot of the same flower for $3.50 on day two.  I purchased that and will wait for it to grow.  I figure in a month or two it will be the size of the $12 plant.

We ended up with three spider plants for $1 purchased on clearance. Anyone seeing a pattern here?  They are tiny but will grow.  I have the patience to wait.  I can buy more smaller plants rather than a few large plants. I have no idea why it rotated the picture.

Finally is the chenille plant from last year.  It was hit hard by the cold in our unheated greenhouse.  It is slowly sprouting back out though.

Not plant related but on the porch is this....

We are looking forward to a little bird family.  The mother is already very chatty so I imagine it will be loud when the babies arrive.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Excuse My Absence

I have been quite busy recently and most of it kept me away from the computer.  I will admit to wasting spending a few days watching the NCAA basketball tournament.  I have also been working hard to get all of the plants out of my greenhouse.  This warm weather means it is unbearably hot inside there.  The back deck and front porch have been cleaned and filled with plants. 

I have been too tired each evening to take pictures, but I will have some coming up tomorrow.  Since the work was not done in one day, I am going to spread the finished pictures out over several days also.  I hope you will stop back by to see what I have been up to recently.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Freezer Cooking - Homemade Calzones

These pocket sandwiches are similar to a frozen variety available at the grocery store. I needed a quick meal after our yard sale adventure on Friday.  I had some ham in the refrigerator that needed to be used up and also had a package of turkey pepperoni.  I ended up making ham and cheese as well as pizza calzones.  I also added in some chopped mushrooms and finely chopped onion to both varieties.  The dough recipe can be found at Bread World.  It is a wonderful soft dough that mixes up quickly.

I brushed each with an egg wash before they went into the oven.  The pizza calzones got a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning to help differentiate them from the ham calzones.  Once they were baked and cooled.  I put them into gallon freezer bags. 

To serve just reheat for 90 seconds in the microwave.  The crust is still soft and almost as good as fresh baked.  The filling options are practically endless.  I do wish I had added some sort of sauce to the ham and cheese ones as they were a bit empty after being baked.  I just have not yet decided what to use.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I mentioned that my husband and I have a new hobby - knitting.  We bought a set of circle looms and then a couple of smaller looms.  The original idea was maybe I could knit hats to go into our Operation Christmas Child (OCC) shoeboxes.  My husband is now officially addicted to knitting.  I think he would happily knit all day if he had nothing else to do.  I have knitted as I had time, but he makes time for knitting.

His first project was a knitted baby hat for our new niece, Annabelle.  Here she is at a week old wearing a little hat made by her uncle.

He has already made her a larger winter hat for Christmas.  My OCC gift box is filling up with hats and even scarves.  We will certainly put our yard sale yarn purchase to good use.