Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chickens and Children

Last May our family decided to get chickens. We were buying our eggs from a nearby farm and since I bake so much in the summer at a local farmers' market in Vermont, we thought it would be a good idea to have our own chickens, therefore our own fresh eggs daily. After using what I needed for baking, the extra eggs the children could sell at the market or to neighbors.
Summer went by quickly with the excitement of doing chicken chores. As you can guess Vermont can get very cold on winter mornings. Most mornings the children wake up, have breakfast and then are supposed to check on the chickens. We first go through many excuses why they can't get to the chickens; "I need to go to the bathroom."(which can take up to 15-20 minutes) or "It is too cold out, so they probably aren't hungry and of course they can't lay eggs in this temperature." or "Why should I go feed the chickens, we fed them yesterday?" or "I feel really sick, but can I have pancakes and sausage for breakfast."
Once the children finally get outside, chicken chores almost become a game. Any transportation device assists in making being outside pleasurable, like a sled to slide down the pathway, a child's tractor which they push themselves around the yard and then eventually to the chicken coop or the tractor can carry a bucket of water to the coop, and of course bicycles in the summer. Mind you it is only about 100 yards from the house to the chicken coop. Then there is a race to collect the eggs. The eggs don't fair too well on those days. On occasion only a few eggs make it back to the house because of mishaps- "Well I didn't see the step and I fell and cracked seven eggs." "There was too many eggs and I needed to put some in my pockets and when I got back on my bike, I forgot that the eggs were in my pocket."
Anyway, we have the day to day trials and tribulations of having chickens. The best part of it is that we have fresh eggs any time we want.

6 eggs boiled and chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons finely chopped celery
4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of relish
Salt and pepper to taste

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thinking About Spring

January at times can be a challenging month with cold temperatures and freezing wind. This warm weather we have been experiencing allows me to see a glimmer of hope that spring will indeed come. I know spring is still way off, but our thoughts of spring are not. Just last week, we were able to find a few more maple trees to tap this year. We also have our seed catalogs out so we can place our seed orders in early February. After the school work is done, the children don't complain as they run outside on a beautiful day to build snow creatures. Lastly, we were able to check on our bees and feed them. Hopefully most will survive the winter and if you are wondering if bees can still sting in the wintertime- they can.
Yes, winter is still here and I do enjoy watching snow flutter to the ground, but we are reaching that point were I can just begin to imagine that just maybe I will be able to survive another winter in Vermont.

Monday, January 18, 2010

From the Garden to the Table Even Throughout the Winter

From the bit of research we have done, we know that our house was built before the 1860's. Therefore, the basement was built over 150 years ago. Our basement was built having a dirt floor and even now the temperature year round stays around 50 degrees. In fact this works to our advantage- in that we have something like an old fashioned root cellar. Placing root vegetables down in the dark and cool place allows there shelf life to continue throughout the winter.
The other day while down in the basement we found our butternut squash that we placed there in this fall. Even though it is winter using the vegetables we grew in the garden from the summer before is great. This allows you to think of all those recipes you want to try and didn't have time or some old recipes that make you think of fall again.
Try this ravioli recipe, it isn't very hard and if you don't have squash from the garden, try it with frozen of evened canned squash.
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Basic Dough
2 cups of bread flour
3 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup of warm water
Place flour into the bowl of your mixer, make a well into the flour, add egg yolks, salt and olive oil to bowl. Begin to mix the ingredients, add water a tablespoon at a time until dough forms a ball. Do not add enough water to let the dough to get sticky. Mix or knead for 10 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes. While dough rests make butternut squash filling.
Butternut Squash Filling
2 tablespoons of chopped onion
2 cups pureed butternut squash (If using fresh squash poke the whole squash with a fork in several places and then place it into a 9 x 13 pan with 1/2 inch of water on the bottom. Put pan in 350 degree oven and roast until squash in tender. Once cooled, remove skin and seeds from squash and place the flesh in food processor to puree.)
1 -2 tablespoons of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion until tender in butter over medium heat. Add squash to the onion mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Once the mixture in warm, take off stove and let cool.
While squash mixture cools. Begin rolling out dough. Slice dough into 2 pieces. Using a rolling pin roll 1 piece of the dough on a lightly floured surface until dough is very thin. The dough should be about the thickness of a dime or so you can see your hand through the dough when you lift it up. As you roll the dough, turn over 2 or three times so that it doesn't stick to the counter. Once rolled out to chosen thickness, place a teaspoon of squash mixture over dough in lines with about an 1/2 to 3/4 of inch space on all sides. Using a pastry brush, dip in water and brush the dough around the squash mixture so that when you put the top dough over to form the ravioli the dough will stick together better. Press down where the dough meets to seal in the squash mixture. Cut ravioli using a pizza slicer. Let ravioli air dry as you continue rolling out the second piece of dough and continue making the ravioli.
Place the ravoili in boiling water for 2-4 minutes and serve with any sauce you would like.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Weekends and Pizza

It seems as though every weekend, our family desperately needs to have pizza for dinner. Even on busy weekends we are still able to make our own pizza dough. The children love kneading and working the dough. Sometimes the dough may end up as calzones, but mostly it's pizza.
Testing different pizza dough recipes was something we did often. We needed one that was basic, flavorful and easy to work. Finally, we found the recipe that works best for us. If you have only an hour or two, reduce the rise time. No matter how many hands play in this dough it seems as though this is a no fail recipe.
Pizza Dough Recipe
3 1/2 cups of bread flour
1 tablespoon of yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place warm water into the mixing bowl of your standing mixer. Add yeast and let proof for 5 - 10 minutes. After the yeast looks bubbly, add 2 cups of flour and mix either with machine or your hands. Add the olive oil and the remaining flour gradually. Mix until dough forms a ball. Take dough out of bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes until dough bounces back when you gently poke it. Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or kitchen towel, and let this rise in a warm area until doubled. Once doubled turn out the dough onto lightly floured surface, pat into a rectangle and cut in half.
Place dough onto a greased pan and work the dough into the needed shape. Place your desirable toppings on the dough and place into a preheated 450 degree oven until the cheese has melted and slightly golden.
Makes 2 pizza doughs

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bruschetta for Dinner

Tonight, like always the question came up, "Mom, what's for dinner?" With baguettes cooling on the stove, the idea of making bruschetta is a simple one.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. We slice a baguette into 1 inch slices and place them on a cookie sheet. (I line the baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.) Drizzle olive oil onto the slices of bread. Add chopped fresh garlic to each slice and sprinkle each piece with mozzarella cheese. Place thinly sliced tomatoes on each baguette and sprinkle with basil (fresh is best but dried basil works great during the winter.) Add a dusting of fresh parmesan cheese to each piece of bruschetta before baking for 10 minutes. The bruschetta, a green salad and you have a simple but very satisfying meal.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Changing Our Blogging Style

My Kids' Kitchen is happy to announce a change in our blogging methods. We hope to keep our customers updated with activities we are involved in such as sugaring, harvesting honey, etc. We will also be using our products in recipes that we will be sharing. We would love comments to our changes and hope you will follow us in our endeavors.
Look for us on www.tasteofhome.com/PLUS, with an article named "Step into My Kids' Kitchen" We will also be in the Feb/March issue of Taste of Home magazine which our baguette recipe will be featured.