Wednesday, October 12, 2016

French Baguettes Infused With Rosemary

Oh my! The smell of Baguettes baking the the oven brushed with butter and fresh Rosemary is simply irresistible. 

The greatest thing about making them is that they are actually very quick and easy.

The secret to making the best Baguettes is creating lots of steam in your oven.  

I do two rises with the dough. The time will be much shorter than with regular bread dough. 

Preparation

Before you begin to put together your ingredients, go ahead and take a 9X12 baking dish and fill it half way with water. Turn the oven on to 450 degrees and place your dish on the bottom rack. 

This will get the oven nice and hot and get that steam going. You can chose to make to nice size Baguettes by only dividing the dough in half with this recipe or divide the dough into 4  or even 6 pieces for breadsticks.
Ingredients

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbs. active dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar or honey
3 1/4 cup organic unbleached flour
2 tsp. Rosemary Salt
Drizzle of Olive Oil
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
3 Tbs. unsalted butter for brushing
1 Tbs. Rosemary Salt for brushing

Directions

In a small bowl mix the warm water with the yeast and sugar.Cover with plastic wrap and a towel in a warm spot. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Your starter will become bubbly and foamy. 

In your mixing bowl combine the flour and salt. Gradually add the yeast mixture. Add a drizzle of Olive Oil. Mix with dough hook or knead by hand until dough becomes nice and smooth.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel in a warm place. Set the timer on 30 minutes to rest and rise.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Roll out each half into a nice triangle shape and then roll your dough up lengthwise and tuck in your ends.

Place your dough on a lightly oiled baking sheet with the seam and tucks on the bottom. Cover with towels and set your timer for another 30 minutes to rest and rise. 


While you are waiting for the dough, go out to the garden and cut a sprig of Rosemary. 

Get out a small saucepan and put in the 3 Tbsp. butter, kosher salt and with scissors cut tiny snips of the Rosemary sprig. Turn the burner on low for the butter to melt.

With a very sharp knife make a slash down the length of each baguette. I do not slash the breadsticks. 

Brush with the melted butter mixture and place in your hot steamy oven. Set the times for 7 minutes. 

Take out the the oven and brush again using up the rest of the butter. Place back in the oven for 8 minutes to finish baking.

Take out of the oven and cool on wire racks.

Breadsticks

Have even more fun and whip up some of your favorite herbal butters to serve with your Baguettes. 

They also make wonderful gifts to give to family and friends. 

Happy Gardening!
Pammy

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Texas Pecan Yeast Bread



Texas Pecan Yeast Bread

This bread makes wonderful toast and sandwiches with a lot of variations. It's really delicious with a little homemade jam or honey on top. 

You can add a bit of cinnamon and nice big organic golden raisins to sweeten it up a bit. I just happened to hit the mother load on pecans this season and love them in bread. 

You'll enjoy this recipe because it's a pretty basic one that can be altered in many ways by combining different grains, seeds and even home milled legumes.

 I also use different organic oils as well, such as Sunflower, Sesame, Olive and Canola. The trick is to not add in all your flour at the beginning so you can adjust for the added in grains and such. 

The dough should always be sticky but not to the point of sticking to your fingers where it can't be kneaded well. Makes 2 loaves. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (can substitute with local raw honey or organic raw sugar)
1/3 cup unsalted butter (can substitute with an oil)
5 1/2 to 6 cups unbleached bread flour (can substitute one cup for fresh milled wheat, bran or legumes)
1 cup organic whole oats
1 cup finely crushed pecans
1 tsp. sea salt
4 tsp. active dry yeast
2 nice large eggs from the hen house or cage free

Directions

Take the water, brown sugar and butter and put in a small glass bowl for the microwave. Heat about a minute and stir, then heat one more minute. Leave it to stay warm in the microwave while you prepare the other ingredients. (Optional: if you want to add raisins let them heat in the microwave in this bowl. It helps them swell a bit and makes a little raisin juice that's yummy)

You will need the dough hook and mixing bowl for this part. 

First put in the one cup of oats. Next add 5 cups of flour (Remember, that you can substitute one of the 5 cups for another milled grain like wheat or legume) add salt and yeast. I use a hand wire whisk and whisk it all together, then place the bowl on the stand with the dough hook. (If your adding cinnamon or any other seeds or spices this is the place to do it.) 

Take your small bowl out of the microwave and test it to be sure it's not hotter than luke warm and the butter and sugar is stirred well and melted. Pour the wet mixture in with your dry ingredients. Mix about a minute with the dough hook on speed two and turn it back off. 

Add the two eggs and turn it back on the second speed. When the dough becomes well combined and begins to pull away from the hook, check it with your finger to see how sticky it is. I will usually add 1/4 more flour here and then test it again. 

If it still feels to sticky I will add one more 1/4 cup. Pour it out of the bowl and knead the dough for a minute or so to make sure everything is worked in well. Lightly oil another big bowl and put the dough in, turning the ball around in the bowl to lightly oil the whole thing. Cover with plastic wrap or a cotton towel and set it in a warm place to rise. Usually about an hour until it is double in bulk.

Next, pour the raised dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat it out and divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a loaf and place in the slightly oiled loaf pans with the seam side down. Tuck under your ends a bit. I take a small bit of milk and brush the tops and pat on oats or seeds. 

Again, cover with plastic wrap or a towel in a warm place to allow to rise double in size. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes on 400. You will know when the bread is done by tapping it on the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds a bit hallow it is complete. Cool on a wire rack.


This is another variation using Home Milled Brown Lentils and Golden Flax Seed

Happy Gardening!!
Pammy

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Garden Dry Your Own Chile Pepper Flakes


The Chile Peppers are first to come in this season and we've grown a wide variety. 

Just yesterday I harvested a whole lot of the Birdseye (Thai) Chile Peppers. My favorite for drying because they're little and fast to dry.


I have been known to dry my peppers naturally, (air dry) when our weather is not to humid. That rarely happens here in the Gulf Coast area. 

You can visit me at Natural Family Today for a great photo to see how I stung together peppers to dry naturally last season. I also included some other tips for canning and preserving naturally.


I am doing oven drying today. You can use a food dehydrator for this method as well. 

After spreading the prettiest peppers out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper they were ready to go in. I like using the paper because it seems to help absorb any moisture and the peppers dry faster.

The Chilies take approximately 8 to 10 hours to dry. Other peppers can take up to 12 hours because they have a thicker skin than the chilies. 

To make this real easy, I turn the oven on the lowest setting at around 170 degrees. I like putting the peppers in right before I go to sleep for the night. 

When I wake, the smallest ones are already finished drying. I go ahead and pick them out and place the rest back in the oven.


When the Chilies have completely dried, it's just a matter of crushing them. They are a little crispy, so it is not to big of a challenge. Just be very sure to wear gloves or to not touch your face. They are HOT!

I crushed my Chilies by using a coffee grinder. Don't over grind or you will end up with a lot of powder. Although Chile Powder is great too! A simple mortar and pestle works well, it is just a little more time consuming. 

Find a pretty jar that has a good seal to help keep everything dry. I found one I liked that once was filled with orange blossom honey. 

My next project will be making up some Sweet Thai Chile Sauce. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Happy Gardening!
Pammy








Monday, September 12, 2016

Lemon Basil Strawberry Muffins

Lemon and Strawberries are the essence of summer. This recipe is not only very refreshing, but also very easy to make and with the right ingredients can be quite healthy. Lemon Basil is a fun treat to add to many dishes. It has a smell of fresh lemon drop candy that I so much enjoy while walking through the garden. As with several herbs, Lemon Basil takes part as one of my favorite aroma therapy sessions.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar (or try with Stevia or Xylitol)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 egg (organic or farm fresh is best)
3/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup organic expeller pressed sunflower oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 tbsp. homemade strawberry preserves (can substitute with fresh or frozen organic strawberries) or a good quality organic strawberry preserve.
1/4 cup fresh Lemon Basil leaves (chopped) or flowers stripped from stems
1/2 to 1 cup of unsalted raw sunflower seeds (amount depends on desired crunchiness)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rack should be in center of oven. This recipe made 20 muffins. I used baking cups in my muffin pans.

In a large bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, oil, lemon zest and juice and vanilla extract. Add the strawberry preserves, Lemon Basil and oil to this mixture.

In another large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Whisk it to mix it well. Add in the sunflower seeds. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and mix only until well combined. Over mixing will cause the batter to become to tough.

Fill each baking cup almost full. Place in oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Check by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean they are done.

Place on a wire rack to cool.

If you don't have buttermilk you can make your own by adding one tablespoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Let it sit for about 5 minute and you will have instant buttermilk.




Happy Gardening!
Pammy

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Juicing Cactus Fruit For Delicious Nutrition



Freshly Juiced Limes, Cactus Fruit, Coconut and Pineapple

Iced down and Ice Cold fruit juices are so refreshing during the hot summer months. Try this combination with a sprig of freshly picked pineapple sage or your favorite mint for garnish. This combination makes great frozen popsicles too!


Peel 6 to 8 nice juicy limes and place in bowl to be juiced. I use a juicer that is an attachment to my food processor.

Next is preparing the Prickly Pear Fruit, also known as Nopalea Cactus. If you have never had cactus fruit you will be in for a real treat! They are so sweet and juicy and taste like watermelons.

They are abundant right now in Texas and I've been fortunate to score them at the local market at 5 for $1. Needless to say that while they are in season is the best time to stock up.

I've cultivated about 25 prickly pears throughout specific places in the garden where caution can be taken in dealing with their long spines.

Not only do they make wonderful drinks, but jams and jellies as well. They even make superb salad dressings.

Prickly Pear Fruit

Just look how wonderfully red and juicy the Prickly Pear fruits are inside. I first cut them in half and then again into wedges. Just slip your finger up and under the skin and slip it off. I used 3 fruits for making this drink. Place them in the bowl to be juiced with the limes.

Add several chunks of fresh pineapple or you can use 1 cup of organic canned pineapple juice. If using fresh chunks go ahead and place them in the bowl to be juiced as well. Otherwise, save the cup of canned juice to add to your pitcher in the end.

For the coconut you can choose to shred or grate your own or you can do like I do and simply purchase some nice and moist organic coconut already shredded for you. I used 1 cup for this drink.

The key to this is after you run the other fruit through the juicer, begin adding the coconut. Take all the pulp from the juicer and run it back through the juicer 2 or 3 times. You will be so surprised at how much more juice comes through and gives the coconut optimum squeezing time. 

Next, add the concentrate (which is all the juice you just made) to your two quart size pitcher. Fill the pitcher half full of ice. Then simply top it off with cold water and stir vigorously.

You may add 1/2 to 1 cup of honey to the drink and stir in as well for some extra sweetness. The fruit all on its own however is quite refreshing all by itself.

Health Benefits


Prickly Pear Fruit is Beaming with health benefits! If you are a juicer, you will not want to miss out on something new to add to your diet.

The fruit is said to compare to the nutritional value of beets and red Swiss chard. 
Prickly pear cactus contains a relatively rare form of antioxidant called betalains. They also contain powerful antioxidants--polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids and vitamin C.

The Mexican people have used this fruit medicinally for generations to help treat diabetes. Today's research has found it to definitely help in lowering blood glucose. 


Happy Gardening!
Pammy

Monday, September 5, 2016

Embracing the Flavors of Basil


This year has been an exceedingly good year for basil at our homestead. The top choices for basil round off into four distinctive flavors. Each to be savored and enjoyed throughout the year.

Sweet Basil

The most commonly known basil of all is simply Sweet Basil. We enjoy its sweet flavor fresh from the garden in an array of dishes. Paired with garden fresh heirloom tomatoes during the summers harvest leaves you longing for each and every season. My favorite for adding to sauces, as pesto and homemade tomato soup.

Sweet Thai Basil

This basil brings a whole new aspect of cooking to enjoy the kitchen. It's sweet and spicy anise flavor is a favorite in all of my Asian dishes. Whether I'm preparing a stir fry with savory garden vegetables or my favorite egg rolls and crab puffs, there is none other to match the Thai. 

Cinnamon Basil

This basil goes a long way in my Texas kitchen. It is an inspiration to all of my Mexican dishes and breads. Bring me the tamales and enchiladas! Once you have tried the spicy flavor of Cinnamon basil added to your salsa making during pepper harvesting you will know exactly what I'm talking about. 

Magical Michael Basil


A new basil added to my garden this spring and I'm thrilled with it. It is the candy store of all basil! I've not even began to reach it's potential and endless possibilities for the kitchen harvest. In fact, I'm so in love with its sweetness and beauty that it now embraces my beloved Basil Blackberry Jellies. Candy and Perfume is the best way to describe Magical Michael.

Enjoy and Happy Gardening!

Pammy

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Fall Guide For Southern Gardeners

It is my hope to compile all the information you need to plan your fall and winter garden on one page.

Everyone is in a zone that reflects the climate where you live. 

Find Your Hardiness Zone

There are some areas that have a shorter growing season and some areas that can garden year round and many that are in between. 

Find Your Average Frost Date

The success of your fall garden is really all about timing. You will be counting down to the first average frost date for your area. 

Keeping in mind that weather can be unpredictable, we can still have a good harvest in fall if we break down the hardiness and maturing dates of the crops we want to grow. We can do that by breaking it down into two simple groups.

Long Term Crops
First there is the Long Term Crops, which means they are plants that will grow longer into the season and hold up to some frosty weather depending on their hardiness.

 These are usually your leafy greens and some of the root crops. Frost- tolerant vegetables include beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collards, garlic, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, spinach and turnips.

Short Term Crops

Second is the Short Term Crops, which simply means they are the plants to can be easily killed by frost

Your zone may still allow for time to grow many short term crops but you may have to be prepared to help protect them or harvest them early. 

Examples of shot term crops are things like  beans, cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, okra, peas, peppers, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes and watermelons.
Knowing the maturing dates for your vegetables can also help you to understand how long each crop will take before it is ready to begin harvesting. 
This of course will depend on the weather as well, but we can break those maturing dates into three simple categories.
There is the quick veggies that don’t take long to grow what so ever, the moderate and the slow that takes much more time before they are mature enough to harvest.

Quick Crops

First we have the Quick Crops which will mature within (30 – 60 days) Examples of this group are  beets. bush beans, leaf lettuce, mustard, radishes, spinach, summer squash and turnips.

Moderate Crops


The Moderate Crops which will mature within (60 – 80 days) are broccoli, Chinese cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, corn, green onions, kohlrabi, lima bush beans, okra, parsley,  peppers and cherry tomatoes.

Slow Crops

The Slow Crops will mature within (80 days or longer) and they include things like Brussels sprouts, bulb onions, cabbage, cantaloupes, cauliflower, eggplant,  garlic, Irish potatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon and winter squash.  
You can find more information written by Prof. Jerry Parsons and Prof. Larry Stein and available at Aggie Horticulture.
Your Local County Extension Office will be able to provide you with information that will detail what varieties and planting dates are recommended for your area.
Here are some direct seeding guides for planting dates in Texas from Aggie Horticulture. 
So make your list and check it twice. The funnest part of the garden is selecting new seed varieties. 
You will still be left with the hard work of planning your garden space and getting it ready to plant. 
I hope to talk more about that soon so be sure to check back.

Happy Gardening!
~Pammy