homestead how-to {bread-a-licious}

I love me some homemade bread. Mmmm, warm and soft, fresh from the oven… just try not to eat the whole loaf. No, seriously. I don’t know what it is about homemade bread, but the guilt factor goes away. I will eat the Whole Thing. Because it’s just that good. Oooops, didn’t get to share with the family. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to make another loaf tomorrow!

Join the yum factor! When making your own bread you have full control. So take it. If you want a sweet bread, add sugar to the mix. If you want seeds and nuts, get to it! This particular posting is about good ol’ yeasty gluteny dough. So if you have any intolerances, folks, we’ll have to wait for the next round to address those. Until then, get out your favorite apron and let’s get baking!

folkways farmSupplies: A large bowl, a liquid measuring jar, a small 1/2 cup measuring cup, measuring spoons, a whisk or fork.
3+ cups of Flour (your choice, but make sure at least half of it is some sort of wheat or else it won’t rise as well), 1 tsp yeast (I buy mine at Mtn. Mamas. They keep it in the fridge.) 1 tbsp honey or sugar. 1 cup hot water (hot to your touch but not so hot that it burns you), butter, any seeds or herbs or spices you want.

1. Place 1 tsp of yeast in your bowl, cover it with your 1 tbsp honey or sugar and then cover that with your 1 cup of hot water. Whisk it well and leave it to sit for about 10 minutes or until it forms a “head”, which is just a sort of bubbly mass on the surface.

2. If you’re adding herbs and spices to your bread, go ahead and mix that into your flour before you add it to your starter. Then add the flour 1/2 cup at a time until your whisk can’t get though the mix anymore. Using your hands now, continue to add flour 1/2 cup at a time until your dough sticks together more than it sticks to your fingers. Then really get in there and knead it. Kneading is not scary. Just mix it up. It’s quite fun, actually. After about 5 minutes give or take, set your bowl aside and cover it with a warm wet dishtowel. Let sit for about 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size. Do your laundry. Read a favorite book. Take the kids to the park. Whatever.

3. This time, cover your hands in butter. Yum! About a tbsp should do it. Knead your bread again until it’s back down to the original size, getting into all the little hidden places with your buttery hands. Place it into a buttered bread pan or a small baking dish and cover again with the warm wet towel for another hour or 2. Finish your laundry. Take a walk. Go get the kids from school…

4. Preheat your oven to 360 degrees and put your loaf in the center rack. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until your bread is golden. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool, then invert it onto a wire rack.

folkways farm5. Eat it! And then do it all over again!

homestead how-to {queso blanco}

Better known as: The easiest cheese recipe EVER.

Cheese, the oh so beloved dairy-licious decadence that with the exception of the vegans and lactose intolerant among us, tops the charts as one of our favorite foodstuffs. Baked mac n cheese with farmhouse cheddar, made from scratch blueberry cheesecake, PIZZA! And then there is the sweet simplicity of a fresh chunk of mozzarella and homegrown tomato wrapped in a leaf of just plucked windowsill basil. Mouth watering, yeah? You betcha!

For most of us modern day mamas (or papas), a truly delectable cheese is as close as the nearest grocery store gourmet counter, depending of course, on the size of your bank account. But for the adventurous among us, I offer up an alternative. Grab a gallon of whole milk and a good cooking pot, and let’s make some cheese!

The first time I felt the smooth stretch of warm mozzarella between my hands, I was awestruck. Seriously? I am doing this? I made homemade pizza that day. Everything from scratch or grown from the garden. I felt like the most awesome person EVER. And I was rewarded with happy tummys and complements at my table. Take out? Take that! Eat your heart out Digiorno! There is a deep satisfaction from homemade. Try it and let me know what you think.

This week in our Homestead How-To (a new category of awesomeness I’m trying to incorporate into the blog), we’re going to make Queso Blanco, by far the easiest cheese in my opinion, as the only ingredients are whole milk and white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar if you like).

Here’s a complete list: 1 gallon WHOLE milk. 1/4 cup vinegar. *A dairy thermometer. A large stainless steel cooking pot. A strainer. A wooden spoon. **Cheesecloth. (Optional: Salt and/or fresh or dried herbs). The entire process takes about 4 hours and will yield approximately 1 pound of cheese. Alright! Let’s do it!

homemade cheese folkways farm

1.) Gather your supplies. 2.) Pour your milk into your pot and place over medium low heat. You want your milk to heat slowly and gradually to reach a desired temperature of 180 degrees. It takes about an hour when given the patience to be done right. Stir every so often with a wooden spoon to distribute heat evenly and to prevent scalding. 3.) When your milk reaches 180 degrees, turn off the heat. * If you do not have a dairy thermometer, turn off the pot when the milk starts to foam a little, just before you think it’s going to boil. You DO NOT want it to boil. 4.) Slowly add your vinegar and gently stir with your wooden spoon. You should see the curds start to separate from the whey. 5.) Let sit a few minutes. 6.) Very carefully (as it is HOT) pour your curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth. If you want to save your whey (which I recommend because it is the cat’s meow as a substitute for milk in baked goods) place another large pot under the colander. **If you do not have cheesecloth you can use a cotton t-shirt. Clean obviously. Just cut it at the seams and use the same way. Come on, you must have an old cotton shirt laying around. 7.) Pull up the edges and ring out to expel the main part of the whey. 8.) Transfer back to your cooking pot and hang from any surface that can comfortably fit the pot and bag of cheese. I use a magnet on the hood of my stove. Easy and convenient, but use your imagination. Let strain for about 3 hours. Less time will give you a wetter cheese, more will give you a firmer cheese. 9.) Yum! Unwrap from the cheese cloth and place in a resealable container to refrigerate. It will keep up to a week cold. Not that it lasts that long.

Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy this cheese:

fresh goat cheese and jam folkways farmMix it with jam. Strawberry is my favorite. Just chop up the cheese and swirl it together with your desired amount of jam for sweetness. Use it on crackers or as a dip for apples or celery.

Grill it. Yep, you heard me right. This cheese has a very high melting point, so you can actually place it directly on your skillet or grill with a little oil or butter. Makes a great snack with a bit of salt or seasoning, and an excellent Indian Paneer.

Form it into balls and roll into fresh or dried herbs. My favorites are fresh dill and garlic, or chives, parsley and dill. But I’m always open to suggestions so if you find a favorite way to enjoy this cheese, please share! If you find a combo that you love and know that’s how you want to season the whole thing, add your salt and herbs after you pour it into your cheesecloth, while the whey is still nice and liquidy. Then give it a good stir with your spoon before it strains all the way.

FYI~ I used fresh raw goat milk. I have never used store bought or cows milk to make this cheese. I would love to know how yours turns out! If you try it, please let me know in the comments.

why i bake bread.

There are few scents as captivating in this world as freshly baked bread. Nor a matched excitement of the steam rising from the moist tenderness when you tear it apart with your bare hands, because it’s just too tempting to walk the four extra feet for a knife. The first bite is divine, always enjoyed in the simplicity of breads true form. The rest is lathered with sweet butter or honey and consumed hungrily.

That loaf of bread may not last the hour.

Fresh bread is a meal in itself. Free from the useless guilt of calories that we might assume had we ingested a purchased loaf from the grocery store. Why is this? Perhaps because we know the effort that went into every bite. Rising early to work the dough before children begin to buzz at your feet. Watching it rise and smelling the yeast as it permeates the whole house. Kneading for the second time, maybe the third and knowing that the muscles in your arms and the movement of your fingers are working together to produce a loaf of pure joy. And finally, when the process itself serves as its own few moments of meditation in an oftentimes overwhelming day. It is calm. It is contentment. It is love. And what more could we ask to fill the bellies of our children?

This is why I bake bread.

 

 

 

Good Eats (Bread Pudding)

 

{Good Eats #4}

Bread Pudding

*Feel free to add your own mixins’ to suit your taste or fancy!

Folk Ways Farm Bread Pudding

I used leftover loaves from my baking last week. Feel free to use any kind of bread you have. Just tear it into chunks and leave it out for a day to get crusty. I would guesstimate 4-6 cups of bread.

Butter a 2 quart casserole dish and throw in your bread bits. Scatter over the top the following (or create your own concoction: 1/2 cup date pieces, 1/2 cup dried apple pieces, 1/3 cup shredded coconut, 1 cup chocolate chips (I do this so Daisy will eat it), & a small handful of flax seeds.

Whisk together in a bowl: 4 large eggs, 3 cups milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg & a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture over the bread and let stand for 30 minutes, occasionally pressing down the mixture to help it absorb the liquid. Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 55 minutes or until a fork comes out clean. If desired, serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream, or a caramel sauce. Yum. Or, like the photo above, slice into a hot buttered skillet until toasted and drizzle with maple syrup.

puddingmix

Good Eats (Kale Paneer)

{Good Eats #3}

Saag Paneer (w/ Kale) & Homemade Naan Bread

We love Indian food, and I do it justice fairly often. This was my first hand at Saag though. I didn’t have spinach, but thought that kale would substitute nicely. Although the texture would be different, the taste would still be divine.

I was a little nervous about Naan. I’d heard it just couldn’t be done without a Tandoori oven. (I think that’s what it’s called.) They SLAP it against the side of the super HOT pit. They took us back into the kitchen at our local Indian spot, Little Nepal (Go there. Yum.) and showed us the process. Way cool.

But with a little help from Joy of Cooking, I got a boost of confidence. Here you go:

For the Naan: Combine in a large bowl, 2 cups flour (I used a mixture of og white and wheat), 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 & 1/8 tsp active dry yeast. In another bowl, mix: 3/4 cup yogurt at room temp., 2 tbsp melted butter, 1 tsp to 1 tbsp water as needed. Add this to your flour mixture.

Mix by hand until a soft ball is formed. Knead for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours. (It won’t double like bread. Don’t worry.)

Punch down your dough and then divide it into 4 balls. Cover and let rest while you prepare your Saag.

Folk Ways Farm

Saag Paneer: Make your cheese: Bring 4 cups whole milk to 185-190 degrees, or just before a gentle boiling point, stirring often so as not to scald your pot. Remove from the heat and add 3 tbsp lemon juice. Stir gently. Let stand 5 minutes. Pour through a fine cheese cloth and set over a bowl or hang to drain. (Save your whey for future baking) When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze as much whey out as possible, then press flat on a plate and cover with another plate. Place some weight on the top and let stand for 20 minutes.

Prepare your kale. Separate the leaves from the stems of and chop leaves into small pieces. (Chop up the stems and give them to the chickens or compost bin) and emerge them in a bowl of cold water. Drain and then do it again. This is a great way to remove soil from all greens. Drain and set aside.

The Naan Preheat over to 450 degrees. Place your oven rack on the lowest setting and if you have a pizza stone, place that in the oven now. Roll out each ball into an oval shape. Melt 1-2 tbsp butter and rub onto the top of each flat piece. Place as many ovals onto the pizza stone as will fit without touching. Bake for 6 minutes, or just beginning to golden and puff. Remove and fold in half. Wrap the bread in a towel to keep warm until the Saag is done.

Back to the Cheese: Remove the weights and the plate and cut the cheese into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat 1/4 oil in a skillet and add 1 tsp of cumin seeds, partially crushed, stir lightly for about 15 seconds. Add the cheese and toss to coat. Shake the skillet every now and then until the cubes are golden brown. About 5 minutes or so. Remove the cheese and set aside. Add 1 medium onion, thinly sliced, to the pan. Stir until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add your kale, a little at a time, until wilted, then add some more until you’ve gone through all of it. Cover until it is well wilted. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, uncovered, until most of the water is evaporated. Fold in the fried cheese and serve hot over cooked brown rice. (I usually make 1 & 1/2 cups of dry rice to 3 cups water for this dish.) Don’t forget your Naan! Enjoy!

Folk Ways Farm

Good Eats (Lavender Lemonade)

{Good Eats #2}

Lavender Lemonade

Folk Ways Farm Lavender Lemonade

I kept seeing these lemons on the counter, and besides the regular use of hummus making or soft cheese, I wanted to do something different. It’s summer. It’s definitely Lemonade season!

I love Lavender. LOVE. And so wanted to try to mingle the 2 in a passionate taste bud embrace. Mission accomplished.

Bring to a gentle boil, 1 half gallon of filtered water.Turn off the heat and add, 1/2 cup of Organic Lavender buds. Let steep 1 hour. Squeeze the juice out of 4-6 lemons, not minding the seeds or pulp, right into the pot of steeped Lavender. Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of sugar, depending on your sweet tooth and mix well.

Strain mixture into 2 half gallon glass Mason jars, filling both up half way, and then fill both up with filtered water. Mix well. You may choose to add a sprig of mint or basil to the jars to add a nice subtle flavor. Refrigerate and ENJOY!

*Tip* ~I used my milk strainer because it fits so well into my mason jars, but you can use a coffee filter or maybe even cheese cloth. You might have to scoop out the pulp every now and then to keep it draining.

Something pretty for a party or summertime treat would be to freeze lavender buds, berries, or sprigs of mint in ice cube trays, and serve them in your lemonade glasses! Lovely!

 

Good Eats (Granola)

Friday is for food. As I continue to try and wrap my head around this whole blogging thing, I’m working on some regular themes that are almost second nature. Filling our bellies is one of those things. It is not an after thought. Food is on the front line and nourishment is key. I’m really proud of the cook I am becoming, and I’d like to share a recipe every now and again. So Fridays are for good food. I hope you enjoy.

{Good Eats #1}

As always with my cooking, I use a handful of this, a pinch of that. Play with the recipes I offer. Never feel like you have to follow exactly. I’m certain I never do.

Granola

granolaWho isn’t a fan of good ol’ fashioned oats? I know I am. And I usually have them in abundance. The former hippie in me is also a big fan of granola. Yum. Here’s my most recent endeavor, modified from a recipe I found in The Homemade Pantry.

Preheat oven to 250*F. Position rack in the top setting.

Combine well: 10 cups old fashioned rolled oats, a handful of each (my handful is around 1/2 cup): sesame seeds, flax seeds, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, add 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1.5 tsp cinnamon.

granola3

Mix together in a small bowl, 3/4 cup of melted butter (1.5 sticks), 1 cup Grade B maple syrup, 1.5 tsp each of vanilla and almond extract. Add wet to dry and mix until well coated.

Pour onto 2 parchment covered baking sheets in a relatively even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, shuffle around and turn the trays, bake for another 30 minutes, repeat once more. Turn off the oven but leave the granola in for a couple hours (if you can bear to wait) and then enjoy with some yogurt or milk. Store extra in covered container. I doubt it will last long if you love granola as much as we do, but just in case, it stores well for about 3 weeks. If you don’t think you’ll go through it all, cut the recipe in half, or share some with your neighbor. :)

granola2

Instant Oats.

The Book

The Book

I remember the packets. Both grits and oatmeal. Just add water and those fine crumbles became instant breakfast. Wow. What were my parents thinking? Well, I’d suffice it to say they were thinking convenience. And I do appreciate convenience. Though I think in those days people were more easily swayed by media tactics for “healthy foods” and such. Maybe they still are, I don’t know. The majority of Americans are not too bright. You can argue if you like. I’m open for a discussion.

Why I do not mind the time it takes to make whole grain breakfasts, there are certain school day mornings that Daisy and I both sleep too late and there is no time to prepare. We run out of granola super fast so most of the time cereal is not an option. So I thought I’d try something that only she was likely to eat (and maybe, Leelu).

I am loving this book, The Homemade Pantry (where I got the pasta recipe). You should buy it. I definitely will be when my library decides I’ve had it too long. There is so much I want to try. (Pop Tarts?!) So anyway, I tried the instant oatmeal and it turned out alright. Not great. But definitely alright. There’s always a “next time I can do better” with the first time I try something, and this one is no exception. But it’s fun and I just like the concept of making real food more convenient.

Mama Made.

Mama Made.

Leelu Approved.

Leelu Approved.

 

Best One Yet!

So I gave up on trying to make my dough in the round and just fit it onto an oiled foil on my baking sheet. Turned out to be my best homemade pizza yet! Oh my YUM!

Spinach, tomato, garlic, feta & white cheddar.

Spinach, tomato, garlic, feta & white cheddar.