Tuesday, December 03, 2013

HomeMade Oven Baked Bread

At the beginning of this post, I would like to warn you! If you will go through with this recipe there is no way back... your family will ask you to make it fresh daily and you will hardly be able to try any of it ;-) But I will also say that this recipe is so easy and in no way time consuming that you will look like a kitchen hero with hardly any work at all on your part - that's a secret ;-)

You will need:

2 tablespoons of dry yeast
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 cup of very warm water


6 cups of sifted BREAD flour
1 cup of light beer (corona or bud light for example)
1 cup of sparkling water (such as Perrier or Pelegrino)
2 tablespoons of vinegar
3 teaspoons of salt

First you need to make the yeast rise. Mix gently the first 3 ingredients and let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes in warm temperature. (Kitchen counter next to the stove does it for me just fine)

Then sift the flour into a very large bowl (I need to get one bigger than this ;-)

Add the beer, sparkling water, vinegar, salt, and risen yeast and mix using your hand. You might need to add some sparkling water if the mixture appears dry. It should look something like this...

Cover with plastic and big towel to keep it warm and let stand in steady warm temperature for up to 12 hours (again, I leave it in the kitchen, next to the stove, chances are my oven is warm or I am cooking something anyway... that is not necessary). I have let it rise for 4 hours and it did the trick. The advantage of this is that if you would like to bake fresh bread for dinner, you could mix it in the morning before work and bake it right when you get home in the evening. Or mix it in the evening and bake that bread for breakfast. that might just make your day ;-)

When it rises, it should look something like this (Now you see why I need a bigger bowl?).

It is time to preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 Celsius) and place the sheet you will be baking the bread on into the oven. Make sure your oven rack is in the middle. Dump the dough on floured surface ... See those nice air bubbles? This one rose well!

... and work it into a round or oval shape. Keep sprinkling it with flour if it's too sticky.

Place it on a hot sheet and put it in the oven for about 35 minutes. I would check it after 25 minutes just in case your oven performs differently.

I tried to make one big loaf or two small loaves and I will have to say the two smaller loaves are way better to handle and easier to slice! So at this point, you would cut your dough in half and shape it into round or oval loaves. Put them in the oven the same way for the same time.

And here you go... you will never stop making this bread!

I am linking this to my friend Jen's blog over at www.jenifferrizzo.com for her Fabulously Creative Friday

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Saying Good Bye to Our Turkeys

... is never easy for me. This was our second year of raising turkeys for food and both times we grew close to them. They are so social and fun. 

Our turkeys have a big enough pen to sleep in and spend minimum time in (usually just waiting till we make our way outside to let them out). And then they roam the backyard all day. They do minimal damage - we only have to get rid of their poop. They don't dig like chickens do. After about 6 months, they seem to grow way big for their own good. We fed them organic chicken feed (layer) and then they ate whatever they wanted around the yard. When we weighed them, after everything was done, they came out to be 41 pounds each. Say what? Last year the turkey was "only" 26.2 pounds. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The "Odd" Vegetables

I just thought I would share some fun photos of my odd shaped vegetables this year. I was thinking carrots might be eventful but nothing odd about them ;-)

The "J" Zucchini

The Bumpy Tomato

The Other "J" Cucumber

 The "Uptight" Tomato

Monday, November 04, 2013

Behind the scenes - Say hello to the farmers

This year I finally decided to have my friend take some professional pictures of our family and our little farm ;-) Usually it's me who is behind the lens so it was time for to switch. I will use some of the pictures for our Christmas card, some for my Facebook page profile picture and blog profile picture, and couple for canvas prints that will help decorate our house.
Yes, we got some good ones but I simply had to share the funny, behind the scenes photos that came with it ;-)

How is this one for a farming bliss?
Trying to catch our pet chicken Brownie since I so desperately wanted her to be in at least one shot... No, T doesn't want to smack her over her head with a plastic bunny... he is just trying to be helpful and removing obstacles that are in my way ;-)
And she didn't make it into any of the pictures...

Is it really that difficult to hold a chicken for 5 minutes? Apparently yes ;-)
And this happened after I said to my husband to hold her because the kids will surely let her go lol

No way can this family photo happen without some wing flapping

Look who is in the spotlight now...

Here is some turkey love!  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Turkeys in our tiny backyard

Wow, I can't believe how big these boys got! We got our first turkeys last year in May and we raised them with success! Our Thanksgiving turkey weighed 26.2 lbs so we called him "The Marathon Turkey". He fed all our guests and we made many more dinners - pierogi, meat balls, and soup.

This is our second attempt and so far it has been going very good. My husband built them new home and they are loving just roaming our tiny backyard, finding spots to rest and chill. They also love getting in the middle of whatever we do...

I scoot down to weed and in few minutes I turn around and there they are, right in my face ;-) Here the kids are trying to blow up Diet coke and Mentos for science and the turkeys are right here in the middle of the chaos. 

And here they are trying to take over our meat birds' food. They won over the whole batch so I had to chase them off and give them their own bucket of food.

I have to say that it will be difficult to say good bye to these two but as always I am glad to know that they were loved and cared for in a great way and that we know where our meat comes from. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Hummingbird moth in our garden

This was the first time we saw this beautiful hummingbird moth in our garden. It looked just like moth and also like humming bird. The way it flew was so amazing

Look at the colors and even the stillness of it's body while the wings are in such fast motion. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Enjoying peppermint tea

Lately I have been enjoying some peppermint tea in the morning! I go to the backyard to take care of my morning chores and on the way back I stop by my herb garden to pick few fresh leaves from my peppermint plant. I place them into the brewing cattle, pour boiling water over them and let it sit for around 10 minutes. The tea is so flavorful and yet light. I enjoy it so much!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to save your rotting squash or zucchini crop

Every year something new happens in one of my garden beds... Last year it was the cucumber beetle, this year it's rotting zucchini and squash plants. When my plants got nice and big I was looking for first signs of female parts on the plants. I found actually plenty of them and got very excited. When I checked back in two days later, all the tiny zucchini and squash were rotting away. 

(sorry I don't have a picture of that - who wants to remember disaster stage right?)

So what do you do when this happens in your garden? (Also read below pictures how to prevent it) Sprinkle dry egg shells and mulch all over the plants base and water throughly. Yes, it's that easy. It worked miracles. See, what the plant is lacking, is some calcium and the egg shells will fix just that!

The next zucchini that showed up after I sprinkled the egg shells looked like this and went all the way. So did the next dozen zucchini and squash!

So how can you prevent this from happening? My grandpa used to collect dry egg shells and kept them in the freezer at all times. Then when he was ready to plant the squash seeds, he would sprinkle the shells in the hole directly with the seed. This way the seed would have plenty of calcium supply right away from the start!
Hope this helps! 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

My organic fertilizer

This is a picture of nicely brewing organic fertilizer I use in my garden. 

What it really is, is some chicken poop that I put in plastic bucket and poured water over it. It was about  quarter of a bucket of poop and rest water. I covered it and let sit for 2 weeks in shade behind our chicken coup. When I opened it, I was amazed because the solution was literally boiling. I pour a little bit into a watering can and add more water to it. The smell is... ehm... interesting, but it works nicely. One more thing - I use it in the evening so it settles in over night and doesn't stress the plants in the hot sun.

Monday, August 05, 2013

My way to stake up the tomatoes and why

Another garden bed that is simply thriving this year! You might remember a picture of my experimental garden bed, where I used Tomatoes, Carrots, and Basil for companion planting.

This was only few weeks ago.

And here is the bed now. You can't even see the carrots (luckily they don't need a whole lot of sun do mature... they are just comfortably growing between the tomato plants)

Here is my giant basil.

Since the tomatoes grew rapidly, I didn't quite keep up with trimming them and getting rid of the suckers. Well, really I was busy at work and with the kids so I didn't actively go into my garden for about a week and it was done... Those plants were massive.

So I asked my lovely and handy husband to make me a trellis. I am not a fan of cages... First of all this is more appealing to my eye and looks more natural than a piece of metal in my garden bed (just my opinion, many people successfully use them and they work great for them - no judgement here)

He got some wooden sticks (maybe there is a better name for it... I wouldn't know it ;-) and some nails and he went according to my tomato plant setting. I think it looks great! And since our garden beds are the same size, we will be able to move it to the next year's tomato bed.

First of all the reason why you want to stake up your tomatoes is to keep them off the ground so they don't start rotting. The structure is close to 6 feet high on 3 sides (I have three rows of tomatoes). I took a string and tied it around the stem of each tomato plant that needed support. Make sure you don't tighten it too much because the stem will thicken as the plant matures. Then tie it to the top but don't pull too hard so the plant doesn't get pulled out of the ground. Here is a detail.

There is no wrong way to support your tomato plants. It is your garden and you decide what your method should be :-) Happy Staking!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Why Marigolds are beneficial for your garden

Early in the season I had some major problems with some of my plants getting eaten by bugs ( I haven't found out what the bug was :-( ) Since I am strictly an organic gardener, I refuse to use any toxic sprays to solve the problem. So what is the best way to maintain your garden organically? 

Companion Planting!

If you haven't heard yet, Marigolds are one of the best flowers to plant in your garden for that purpose. They are very easy to grow and they look pretty ;-)

Marigolds take care of:
- Aphids
- Mexican bean beetles
- Squash bugs
- Tomato hornworms
- White flies
- Thrips
- Root rot nematodes (attack roots of strawberries, potatoes and tomatoes)

Look at my bean trellis now!

And when the season is over, don't remove the Marigolds. Just simply leave them in and turn them over. They will rot and kill anything harmful that might have entered your garden. Next year I will plant them everywhere!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Zucchini garden

Whoa - look at my zucchini/squash/cucumber garden... Few days of rain and high temperatures and these plants took over.

In the front here are some squash plants and cucumber plants.

And here in the back are the zucchinis. 

I am very paranoid this year and watch every morning and evening my plants in case I would see some cucumber beetle. So far so good - with a lot of prayer...

Look at these baby squash... too bad they all rotted. As of now I found only one good squash and one good zucchini. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pickling cucumbers one jar at a time

Hello everyone! With all these cucumbers coming out of my garden I am ready to pickle!!! I am so excited mainly because last year all my cucumber plants got killed by cucumber beetle and I believe I had only one to enjoy :-( So this year I am taking full advantage of healthy crop and I am going to pickle them... One jar at a time!

My grandpa back in Czech Republic used to collect them and when he had a good amount he would pickle them all at once. he gave me his recipe but that will just not do for me. Not only do I not have much time to spend a hole afternoon to pickle but also I don't have much fridge space (see he had a cold cellar where everything lasted forever ;-)

Go over here for the recipe and make one jar. Let it sit for a week and then taste it. That is what I did. Although the recipe worked very well and everything sealed properly and the pickles were nice and crunchy, I needed a bit more spicing. I think that is very individual and that is why I recommend making one jar first and try it before you go do next one. You can add or take away some ingredients to  meet you taste buds ;-) (I will be adding more garlic and dill) Good luck!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Veggie Garden in June

I have been very active in the garden and on my Facebook page and I feel very bad that blog slipped my mind for the past few weeks. So here I am, back at my keyboard and how else to begin again than with some garden progress report ;-)

Here is my new experiment: Companion planting all the way in this bed. I have 4 rows of carrots, 3 rows of tomatoes, and 2 basil plants. I heard that all of these go well together so I am hoping for the best results. I bought some organic tomato plants (the bigger ones on the picture) and the smaller you see are from my indoor green house. They looked dead when I was putting them in but I guess they caught their second wind. Next i need to get tomato cages.

Here is the basil beauty, doing well.

Climbing beans got hit by some bugs early in the season... the first leaves got eaten. So I planted some marigolds and that took care of 90% of the problem as you see.

This year is the first time my raspberry bush got huge. We have tons of small berries starting to show but I hope the birds will not eat them before we do. The bush is in a remote spot in the garden so it is easy for them to get to it without being disturbed :-(

I love these visitors!!!

Some snap peas coming up on their trellis. 

and so are the climbing beans... well slowly...

Last year I had great luck with the soy beans (edemame), and it so happens that we love this vegetable so much that I devoted most of my bed to it this year. I am hoping for the same result... you can see cauliflower peeking out right by the fence in the same bed.

Oh, how I love my irrigation system... 

Cucumbers (I already pulled the extra ones out.. with heavy heart)

Squash and some more cucumbers... I will have to come up with a trellis for these cucumbers. I just love this ladder bed...

Say hello to my volunteer tomato from last year... I don't have the heart to pull it out so it will be keeping company to the eggplants. They like each other...

You can see most of the garden here...

My strawberry bed is by the porch for the kids to access it easily... First year for those!

This is the only snail I will let stay in my garden ;-)
How is your place coming along?