Life on the creative side

Posts tagged “food and drink

A neighbor’s generosity brings blackberries back to my garden on the ridge

Blackberries

blackberries from Ray

Thanks to a neighbor’s generosity, blackberries grow once again in my garden on the ridge. I have always loved  blackberries, they populate  my childhood memories as well as those of my children. We  enjoying making jelly and it became a traditional summer activity  with my kids. The sweet-tart berries were the first plants in my ridge garden.  But a few years ago I lost all my blackberry bushes.  Then last fall I mentioned in passing  to a neighbor that I missed my blackberries.  Well the word spread along the ridge until it reached Ray, a life-long neighbor and friend, who this spring deposited twenty blackberry transplants from his garden on my front porch – I love life on the ridge.

Creating a blackberry patch

 

Blue bird house in blackberry patch

 

first blackberries on the vine

The transplants are doing well.  I’ll be sure to share some fav recipes at harvest time.


A Hearty Basic Bread Recipe

Hearty basic bread:

DSCN0879

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have been making  this great basic bread based on  a  recipe posted by Diana Bauman, over at the Humble Kitchen blog,  http://www.myhumblekitchen.com/2013/03/simple-european-style-everyday-bread-recipe-with-video/#more-4764.   For the past few days  my son and I  have been experimenting and tweaking the recipe to make an equally simple, but little more hearty, basic bread.  The whole process has been great fun and now I’m ready to share our modified recipe.  It is soooo good and soooo simple you’ll want to throw on an apron and get started.  Let me know how you like this hearty basic bread.

Original “Simple European Style Everyday Bread”

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour (you’ll add more as you knead)
2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
extra virgin olive oil

Diana has posted a really helpful video on “Humble Kitchen” where she demonstrates the entire process, I would definitely recommend you give it a view.

 

My Modified, ” Hearty Basic Bread Recipe”
2 cups flour-unbleached all purpose
1/4  cup almond flour
1/4 cup milled flax seed
1 cup sunflower seeds (next time I think I’ll try pumpkin seeds)
2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

The method is exactly the same for both the recipes.

Mix well together the all purpose  flour, almond flour, milled flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, salt and yeast in a large bowl.
Stir in warm water until dough is sticky and shaggy.

shaggy dough

shaggy dough

With floured hands knead the dough right in the bowl for 3 or 4 minutes – you will need to dust  the dough with flour  occasionally (no more than an  extra 3 tablespoons) so you can continue to handle it, but you want the dough to stay light and tacky.
Once the dough is holding together and is  firm and  tacky,  pour about a teaspoon of evoo over the dough

adding EVOO to dough

adding EVOO to dough

Then  using oiled hands gently but firmly knead the dough into a tight ball – this is done by placing your  hands a few inches apart on the top of the ball of dough, gently but firmly force the dough from the top of the ball out, over the side, down and under to the bottom while maintaining the shape – apply enough pressure to keep the ball together and to meld the dough back together on the underside of the ball; repeat this for 2-3 minutes until you have formed a tight ball.

kneading dough

kneading dough

kneading dough

kneading dough
Place the dough into a well  oiled bowl, roll the dough in the oil then cover the bowl  with plastic wrap and  a cloth towel, let  rise for one  hour.

cover with towel

cover with towel

place dough in well oiled dough

place dough in well oiled dough

 

cover with plastic wrap

cover with plastic wrap

After the hour  the dough should have doubled in size, carefully remove it from the bowl to  a floured surface – don’t compress or punch down the dough, although it will fall.

remove dough from bowl

remove dough from bowl

Now repeat the kneading process from  he previous step until it is once more a tight ball
Place the ball of dough on a cookie sheet,  gently  cut a large X about half an  inch deep across the top of the ball (you will need a razor or very sharp knife).

I use scissors to cut x on top of dough

I use scissors to cut x on top of dough

Rub or brush a bit  more evoo over the top and sprinkle lightly with four
Once again cover the dough with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise for another 20 minutes.

cover dough with plastic wrap and towel

cover dough with plastic wrap and towel

Now pre-heat oven to 500F
After the 20 minutes place it in the  preheated oven  and bake for 10 minutes at 500F- then lower the temperature to 350F and bake for  another 25  minutes

place dough in pre-heated oven

place dough in pre-heated oven

After baking let the bread sit and cool to room temperature  – if you can :)

If you have more self-control than I do, share a photo of your fresh-baked bread.

yummy

yummy


Back to Basics by Baking Basic Bread

Back to basics by baking basic bread:

I hope you had a wonderful Easter, we certainly did.  Hubby and I celebrated the day of hope and promise  with our son, who is visiting for a short time before  heading off on yet  another adventure somewhere in the world.  We watched the sunrise over the ocean then later dined outside to the sound of the waves and  cooled by  a light ocean breeze.  We spent the day together as we prepared our meal as a team, hubby on the grill, me at the oven and my sweet boy  preparing the alfresco dinning area.

For some time I have been thinking about doing some bread baking, I use to enjoy baking  bread but years of  anti-carb rhetoric had taken away some of the joy; even though  bread baking is perhaps one of the oldest  life-sustaining traditions the world over.  Then a few days ago I was  visiting a favorite blog and came across a bread recipe that resonated with me. Diana Bauman over at Humble Kitchen (you can find the link on my home page under kindred spirits) shared a recipe she described as “Simple European Style Everyday Bread” –  with a title like that, who  could  resist! So for Easter dinner I prepared this beautiful, and beautifully simple, bread for my family. Inspired by the tradition and simplicity of the bread I also decided to make some home-made butter; another super simple process.

Later we gave thanks and shared our Easter  meal together on the porch and dined on steak grilled on Himalayan salt blocks, asparagus casserole, baked potatoes, warm-from-the-oven home-baked bread and freshly churned (blended) creamy white butter – yum!

Home made butter and home baked bread

Get back to basics by baking basic bread.

Making butter in my Ninja blender: Pour a pint of heavy whipping cream and a pinch of salt into a blender or food processor (I used a ninja blender) Blend until a solid clump forms and separates from the liquid (butter milk). I stopped the blending several time to push the whipped cream down into the blades; this process took several minutes.  Strain the clump through cheese cloth, shape (I used a small bowl to shape my butter into a mound but it can also be shaped into a log and gently wrapped in wax paper.  Keep  refrigerated.

 “Simple European Style Everyday Bread”

http://www.myhumblekitchen.com/2013/03/simple-european-style-everyday-bread-recipe-with-video/#more-4764    –

 

 

 


Wonderful, Lemony Limoncello to Make and Share

making limoncello, peeling the lemons

During my first trip to Italy I spent a short time on the stunning Amalfi Coast where I was introduced to a wonderful, lemony concoction – limoncello, an Italian digestivo.

me on the amalfi coast

In every village I visited along that breathtaking coast, I came across the lemony after dinner liquor. I was fortunate and had a contact in the area who arranged  a tour of a small limoncello producer.  The tour concluded with a tasting; as it turned out, nearly everyone  in the region brews their own version of the elixir so, fortunately for me,  my first tasting was not my last.

amalfi coast

All these years later,  I still enjoy an occasional after dinner sip of the Italian liquor; but now I also enjoy making my own version  and sharing it with family and friends.

The process for making limoncello is very simple…

Making limoncello with everclear

12-15 large lemons (you want the lemons to have bright yellow skins)
2 – 750ml bottles of Everclear (I have also used 100-proof vodka)
3-4  cups sugar
5 cups water

 

 

making limoncello, zesting the lemon peel

Carefully wash and gently grade, into long strips or strings, the peels of the lemons (You can use a veggie peeler, being careful to avoid the white pithy rind as it will make for a bitter batch) .

 

 

 

 

making limoncello, peels in everclearPut the peels and the alcohol  in a lidded glass jar (plastic wrap can be used instead of a lid) – place in a dark place for at least 7 days (I steep mine  for up to 3 months).

The alcohol will gradually take on a lovely yellow color

 

 

 

making limoncello, boiling simple syrupAfter steeping for the desired time –

Mix together sugar and water – bring to a gentle boil and boil for 5-7 minutes – making a simple syrup

Completely cool the simple syrup

Once cooled pour the simple syrup  into the lemon/alcohol mixture  – continue to steep for another 5-7 days

 

home made limoncello

Finally strain the mixture using a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth or coffee filters (dampen coffee filter first)

Store in tightly lidded glass bottles in the freezer

Finally, invite over friends and share the sweetness of your limoncello and some dolce vita – sweet life.

 


Drying Apples

Since our trip to the orchard, Hubby and I have been busy drying  apples  and in this post I want to  share the simple process.

collection of apples for drying

Clean and cut away bruises and blemishes, peel (optional), core and thinly slice the apples; an apple peeler/corer  works great here. The peeler cuts the apple into a long spiral which  I then cut in half to create half moon shaped pieces – it is important to keep the slices consistently thin 1/4″ or thinner is best.

using apple peeler/corer for drying apples

I dipped the slices into a lemon/water bath to prevent the slices from browning; ½ cup lemon juice+1 cup water; this step is optional but it keeps the apples from browning  and I like the hint of tartness the lemon imparts.

peeled, cored and sliced apples in lemon bath

I used a dehydrator, with the apples spread out in a single layer over the dehydrator screen; the temperature set to 150 for around twelve hours (depending on the conditions it can take anywhere from 10 to 24 hours for drying apples).

drying apples in dehydrator

You want the apples to be dry but still pliable (they must be at least dried to the state of raisins to keep well). From this state the dried apples can be stored and used later by re-hydrating them for use in hand pies, apple pies, chutney etc.  (a future post). If I had wanted to make apple chips I would simply have dehydrated them until they were crispy – yum.

For a variation I tossed two cups of the slices into a Ziploc bag along with ½ cup of sugar and a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon also works great) and shook to thoroughly coat the slices. The seasoned apples took an additional five hours to cure but what yummy munchies they make.

The slices will shrink and pull away from each other as they dry.

apples drying in dehydrator

If you don’t have a dehydrator an oven set on as low as possible should work fine. If you’re using a cookie sheet, the fruit should be turned over once during the drying process, but cooling racks provide more exposure which aids in the drying.

The dried fruit should be at room temperature before being stored in air-tight containers. I refrigerate or freeze any that I don’t plan on using right away.

dried apples sealed in freezer bags

I am by no means an expert on food preservation,  but the folks over at the following site are, so check out their recommendations and start drying apples. http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_dry_fruit.pdf

 


A Trip To The Orchard: one of our favorite fall activities

apples at reed valley orchard

With a new crispness in the air and leaves blushing hints of colors to come, it’s time for one of our favorite fall activities.

apples at reed valley orchard

This is the season of pumpkin patches, fall festivals and, for hubby and I, a trip to Reed Valley Orchard. The family run orchard is situated at the end of a gravel road that meanders along a lovely little creek and through gently rolling hills and pastures of bluegrass. On the scenic road to reed valley orchard, one of our favorite fall activities

Nestled between Paris and Cynthiana Kentucky in a particularly scenic region of the bluegrass state populated by magnificent horse farms and historic stone fences,  Reed Valley Orchard boasts 3000 trees of numerous varieties including apples, peaches, pears as well as various berries. Scenic drive along Kentucky's bluegrass region back-roads reed valley orchard one of our favorite fall activities

They sell their produce along with baked goods, canned goods and gifts in the country store. store at reed valley orchard

You can purchase bags of fruit…

large bag of mixed apples purchased at reed valley orchard

apples at reed valley orchard

or grab a wagon and wander through the groves picking the fruit yourself.

Apple picking wagons for you pick at Reed Valley Orchard fall activities picking apples at reed apple orchard one of our favorite fall activities

Hubby and I purchased apple cider, peach nectar and a bag of mixed apples we’ll be drying; minus of course the ones that ended up in yesterday’s apple pie. For more information about Reed Valley Orchard check out their website http://www.reedvalleyorchard.com/ or find an orchard, pumpkin patch or corn maze near you; it may just become one of your favorite fall activities.

more resources: http://www.pickyourown.org/index.htm#states  http://www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/index.php


Take It Outside: outdoors dining

food, toasting to dinning outside

On these lovely last days of summer, one of my favorite activities is outdoors dining.

great food and wine and outdoors dining

The season brings an abundance of fresh produce, inspiring causal alfresco meals.  During a visit to the beach an Italian friend  introduced us to dolce vita, preparing an easy delicious meal that our families took together under the seaside arbor. While Roberto didn’t measure ingredients, I have roughly estimated quantities so I can share this wonderful dish with you and your family, but by all means take liberty with the recipe to suit your tastes.  This has become a family favorite, it’s so simple and so good-especially with tomatoes and basil fresh from the garden.

Roberto’s Spaghetti:

roberto Spaghetti Food

½ box Spaghetti cooked al dente
While spaghetti is cooking mix the following together in a large shallow bowl
1 ½ cups Fresh mozzarella cheese (I prefer water packed if available) chopped into 1 inch cubes.
4 large tomatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
½ – ¾    cup olive oil
2 teaspoon Salt or to taste
Fresh basil torn or cut into rustic pieces

Strain spaghetti and mix into tomato mozzarella mixture serve immediately with hearty rustic bread, some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese for dipping. Throw together a simple spinach salad, great for outdoors dining.

Food, Roberto spaghetti perfect for outdoors dining

My brother and sister-in-law are pros at embracing dolce vita. They have created an amazing shelter, tucked into the trees at the edge of their yard, for gatherings that always seem to involve delicious food. A favorite shelter activity is grilling personal pizzas.

Super Easy Grilled Pizza:

pizza on the grill for outdoors dining

Pre-made Naan bread lightly coated with olive oil and grill until lightly browned (homemade or purchased pizza dough can also be used)

Toppings of your choice.  Pre-cut, sliced or shredded tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, peppers, pineapples, pepperoni, ham, beef, sauce, cheeses…

Let your guest top the grilled naan bread buffet style,  then place the pizza back on the grill to heat, blend the flavors and melt the cheese. So easy and soooo yummy!

food outdoors grilling pizza

So before summer fades, gather up some loved ones, grab some great food and take it outside for some outdoors dining!


Farm to Table

egg avocado cheese sandwich

organic, permaculture farm, produce market, ky

Summer time is the perfect time to embrace farm to table dinning. Blue Antler Studio sits on a rocky ridge in rural Kentucky, where farm to table is just simply the way of life, so farm fresh produce is easy to come by this time of year.  In fact I sometimes come home to find a sack or a basket of fresh produce, a gift from one neighbor or another’s garden.

basket of sweet potatoes

Out the road a little ways sits my dad’s treasure-stuffed, man-cave cabin…

a man-cave cabin

just inside the door there is a small refrigerator. If you look inside the frig you’ll usually find several dozen beautiful farm fresh eggs sitting beside a jar labeled with a hand-written note that reads, “egg money $2.00 a doz”. The eggs are not from my dad, as he and mom no longer keep chickens, but from Danny, a life-long neighbor, who keeps my family in lovely brown, pale-blue and cream-colored eggs all season.

colorful farm raised eggs

Much to my disappointment however, this year has been so hot the hens haven’t been laying well; but today I got word that finally there were eggs in the frig.  So I hurried out the road, threw open the frig door and to my delight discovered four dozen Danny eggs stacked beside the money jar; yipee!

egg jar

In true farm to table fashion, or Rocky Round tradition, this evening I enjoyed a delicious egg, cheese and avocado sandwich on a hardy, grilled bread; complimented by a glass of red wine sangria sweetened by in season, peaches and blackberries.

egg avocado cheese sandwich

LOL – I was so excited about this lovely meal, I had eaten half the sandwich before I thought to stop and take a picture.

                    .fresh sangria makings

Does life get any sweeter?

:)

To learn more about farm to table living  check out – http://www.farmtotablenm.org/

 


Creativity Bling!


What a wonderful time we’ve had at Blue Antler Studio this summer.  My parent’s anniversary picnic brought family, scattered  all around the country, home to the ridge; my girls from North Carolina and NYC, and my sister from California. Their presence took our gatherings to another level, where we shared, supported, and inspired ideas. But all too soon it was time to say good-bye. So we prepared some beautiful food, poured some local wine and fresh cold water and local ohio valley winegathered in the Studio. While we talked and laughed Jane and Edna announced they had another surprise – big, blinging, creativity rings for each of us!

We are once again creating far from each other, but now we have as inspiration, our memories of a wonder time shared together at Blue Antler Studio and, of course, blinging creativity rings keeping us close in spirit.

  Miss you all!

 

 

 

 


Kentucky Backroads Farm Tour

organic, permaculture farm, produce market, ky

northern ky back roads farm tourAt eight forty-five Saturday morning a small group of Blue Antler Studio regulars loaded a cooler into the back of my sister-in-law’s SUV, then all five of us piled into the car and headed down the gravel road and off the ridge.  It was a hot day for the local back roads farm tour but our spirits were high; at least the ride would be air-conditioned.  We had done our homework and had mapped out several of the fifteen or so small family run operations we wanted to visit, including a small organic  farm, a horse ranch, a cattle farm, a beekeeper and three wineries.

permaculture produce marketWithin fifteen minutes we were pulling into Greensleeves, a twelve acre sustainable farm and our first stop of the day. We were met by sweltering heat and an enthusiastic volunteer as we got out of the car. After registering and sticking on our nametags, we were directed toward a small building surrounded by several other structures: a couple of small barns, a greenhouse and another shed or two. Tall grasses and flowers, both wild and self seeding cultivars, were competing for space and sun alongside the buildings and pathways, giving the place a slightly unkempt appearance.

 Inside the building a long low table filled with produce, jams, jellies, flavored mustards, raw cheese and soap stretched out beneath a canopy of drying herbs and flowers that hung from low rafters. Gretchen, the farmer and our guide, led us on a very informative and inspiring tour starting with the barn; where we met Valentino, the resident sheep, and saw large cloves of garlic drying in racks. As Gretchen explained the principles of permaculture, we strolled through the gardens; where a few hardy volunteers were defying the heat, pulling weeds by hand so not to disturb the soil. There was evidence everywhere of the competition between unruly weeds and the crops, but Gretchen picks her battles wisely; truly organic practices involve maintaining a delicate truce between nature’s disorderly behavior and a farmer’s attempt to coax a living from the land.  We then walked by a small orchard populated with apples, pears and peach trees. As we passed back through the yard we stopped to see the crowing rooster and his harem of hens, before finishing up our tour back at the produce building.

In the produce shed, Gretchen took us into her cold storage, a cool piece of heaven on such a hot day, where the cheeses, berries and greens were stored.  Then after loading the cooler with our purchases and promising to return to help pull weeds,  but not before the heat wave had passed, we were off to our next stop.

As we pulled into Little Rock Farm they were grilling up goodies in the yard.  For a buck fifty we tasted some of their home-grown beef-burgers; grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free: fifty cents more treated us to corn-on-the-cob, hot off the grill. Also for sale was some home-baked zucchini bread and local honey. They keep vacuum packed, frozen beef stored in a freezer right there in the barn. A payment box is  permanently mounted on the wall by the door so customers can help themselves, if the family’s not around you just pay on your way out; self check out farm style. If its produce or fresh eggs you need, simply step into the cold storage at the other end of the barn, get what you need and drop your cash into the box; country life is a blessed life.

The next stop was our first winery of the day. I prefer dry red wines, and my experience has been that small family run operations tend toward milder, sweeter selections: Not Camp Springs Vineyards, they produce a full range of wines from sweet to dry. After tasting, and purchasing a few bottles, we wandered through the small art gallery, in the loft of their tasting room, enjoying the artwork and visiting with the artists. Local photographer, Don Wiedeman whose preferred subjects are the historic, German, stone structures of the area, voiced an interest in seeing the log structures out on the ridge, including Blue Antler Studio. Then an ohio river valley winery Campspringsunexpected down pour forced us to wait out the rain over a glass of Merlot in the tasting room: Isn’t summer time sweet.

I also found wines to my liking at our next two stops; StoneBrook and Seven Wells. Each offered a full-bodied red that I enjoyed. As the afternoon began to slip away we made our last stop at the impressive LazyK horse ranch. The LazyK is a beautiful facility offering boarding; riding lessons; an impressive, dust-free, indoor arena; and riding trails. But the heat and the wine were taking their toll so we headed back to the ridge, content in our decision to plan a visit to the Beezy Bee farm on another day.

  On the ride home we made plans for one more gathering at Blue Antler Studio before my sister Jane goes back to her life in California and me back to mine in Florida. While we’re always a little sad to leave our family on the ridge, our roots run so deep in this rocky soil that no matter how long or far we travel we stay grounded with a good sense of place. After this wonderful summer together we carry away with us the memories of creative gatherings and time shared, keeping the ties that bind us to our family and friends on the ridge ever strong.

 

 

 

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Handcrafted Salvaged Wooden Gutter Wine Rack; Happy Birthday Too Me!

WOW,  look what I got for my birthday. 

This unique wine rack was crafted by my husband from the remnants of an old, wooden, redwood gutter and reclaimed Cypress.  It was my birthday gift, the beautiful Shypoke wine,  www.shypoke.com ,  a very appreciated Christmas gift. Thanks hubby, cheers!

K

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