Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Baking

sprinkling confectioners sugar on cookies
     It's that time of year again.  The aroma of pies and cookies baking are in the air.  I got an early start on my thanksgiving baking by making these old fashion vanilla cookies.  It's a very simple tasting cookie that is quite a contrast to the rich tasting pies that I usually make for the holidays.
3/4 cups of sugar                  1 1/4 lbs of flour
2 sticks of margarine             3tsp  baking powder
4 eggs                                    1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp of vanilla                       1/4 tsp salt
preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream margarine and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla.  In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to egg mixture.  Take a heaping tablespoon of dough and roll out about 4-5 inches and make into an S.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Cool on rack.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rebuild, Restore, Recover

     Mother Mousse Bakery in Staten Island will be selling these t-shirts to benefit the victims of hurricane Sandy.  The cost is $15.00. 100% of each sale will be donated. The NYCB family of banks will match every donation.  That means for every t-shirt sold $30.00 will be donated. 
     If you are in Staten Island please visit Mother Mousse and help support a great cause.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Last Week Hurricane, This Week Snowstorm, Next Week???

Trees are down everywhere

     As everybody and his brother knows, last week the east coast was hit with a devastating hurricane.  Our hometown of Staten Island was hit especially hard.  Fortunately, we were very lucky to sustain only minimal damage.  Only a two day blackout and some missing shingles on our roof.  But many of our neighbors weren't so lucky. So many homes and lives completely destroyed.  Everyone on Staten Island has been spending an endless amount of hours trying to help our neighbors.  We on Staten Island are very grateful for all the help and donations from across the country and overseas.  It is very much appreciated.  
A lantern is our only light
A tree taking down wires

   And now we have a snowstorm!!!!

Our yard a week after the hurricane
chickens looking at the snow

The snow covering the leeks, cabbage, carrots, parsnips and beets
     What will it be next week???

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hot Nest Box

         This must be the hot nest box.  I built six, but this one gets used most.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Candy Bar Browines

Yummy chocolate goodness
     Some days all you want to do is indulge.  You need to get a sinful fix.  For me that fix is chocolate.  Not just any chocolate, but something gooey and rich.  When you take a bite out of it the first words you say is, "Oh My God!"  That is definitely how these candy bar brownies make you feel.
     Like everything else I start by finding a recipe online and then I tweak it.  This recipe came from Oxmoor House June 2007.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                              4 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened cocoa                                 1/4 cup brewed espresso
1/2 tsp baking powder                                      2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda                                 1/2 cup snickers, chopped
1/4 tsp salt                                                      1/2 cup peanut butter cups, chopped
1 1/2 cups butter, melted                                 1/4 twix, chopped
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar                               1/2 cup white chocolate morsels
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar         1/2 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
Coat a 13" X 9" pan with cooking spray. Line pan with aluminum foil, allowing ends to hang over short sides of pan.  Tuck overlapping ends under rim on short sides.  Coat foil with cooking spray; set pan aside.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl.

Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth; add eggs, coffee, and vanilla, beating just until blended.  Add flour mixture; beat at medium speed  until blended. Stir in candy, white chocolate, and nuts.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55 to 58 minutes.  Cool completely in  pan on wire rack. 

Carefully invert brownies from pan using overlapping foil as handles; remove foil and cut
brownies into squares.

*note*  check the brownies around 50 minutes into baking.  Remember oven temperatures vary and nothing is worse than burnt brownies.
Also, you can use any candy you want.  Next time I might try peppermint patties or even almond joys.  It's entirely up to you.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Cracked Corn

chicks eating their cracked corn
        It's going to be a chilly night.  We put the girls to bed with some cracked corn in their crop.  The cracked corn keeps them warm during the night.  It raises their body temperature.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot!!!

Hot peppers hanging from the kitchen window
     Several years back our neighbor gave us hot pepper seeds he got from Italy.    We have been growing them every summer since then.  At the end of the growing season, we hang them in our kitchen window to dry out.  Once dried, we crush them and store it in a mason jar.  We use them on pizza and in cooking some of our favorite spicy foods.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Potato Leek Soup

      There is a chill in the air.  Finally some nice fall weather.  And what could be better than a hot steaming bowl soup.  You know, the kind of soup that sticks to your ribs and warms your soul.  We had a great year for leeks in our garden so I thought I would make some potato leek soup.  I found this recipe online.  Its very simple and makes great use of  the leeks and potatoes we grew this year.
 Ingredients:      3 Large leeks cut lengthwise, separated, cleaned.  
                          Use white and light green parts only, chopped                                                                                                                                            
                          2 tbs of butter
                          2 cups of water
                          2 cups of chicken broth
                          2 lbs of potatoes, peeled, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
                          marjoram - dash
                          1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
                          2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
                          Tabasco sauce
                          salt & pepper
 Directions: 1. Cook leeks in butter with salt and pepper in a medium sized sauce pan.  Cover pan, cook on low heat for 10 minutes.  Check often.  Do not brown leeks!  Browning will give leeks a burnt taste.
2.  Add water, broth, and potatoes.  Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes.  Scoop about half of the soup mixture into a blender, puree and return to pan.  Add marjoram, parsley, and thyme.  add a few dashes of tabasco sauce.  Add some freshly ground pepper, 1-2 tsp salt or more to taste.

serves 4-6
Hot steaming bowl of soup.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall Harvest

The fall garden
     It is that time of year again.  The garden is winding down.  Gone are the cucumbers, tomatoes, stringbeans, and peppers.  All that's left are our fall vegetables.  We have carrots, parsnips, leeks cabbage, spinach, and beets.  Lots of beets.  And for some reason we still have eggplants. 
      Today I decided to pick some beets for a salad.  As soon as we get a frost the beets will become sweeter.  The frost turns the starch in the beets into sugar. Can't wait for that.

The beets I picked today

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Miss October

Matilda looking all pretty
          October's hen of the month is our one year old australorp, Matilda.  She's the larger of our two australorps.  Matilda struts her stuff all over the coop as if she is a queen.  She has a regal look and always holds her head high.  When it' s time to eat, the other hens get out of her way.  But when it comes to our family, she is as sweet as can be.  Here she is striking a pose.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Miss September


Broody Hen
     I know it's a little late but September's Hen of the Month is our buff orpington, Henrietta.  Yeah, I know a lot of chicken owners name a hen Henrietta and it is a bit lame, but I couldn't help myself.  She is a good girl and a very productive egg layer. Lately she has become quite broody.  You can always find her in the coop lying in the corner.  When another hen lays an egg, she rolls the egg under her and sits on it.  Sometimes we find 3-4 eggs under her.  We constantly have to pick her up and shoo her outside.  Hopefully with the cool weather coming she will calm down and snap out of her broodiness.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Getting Figgy with It

Figs quickly ripening on the tree
This isn't even half of it
simple fig crostata
     At the end of August the figs on our tree started to ripen very quickly.  This year we had hundreds of figs on our tree.  The trick is to pick them as soon as possible before the birds get them all.  Now that we started to harvest them, we have to use them as quickly as possible.  One of my favorite recipes is a simple fig crostata.  It is very easy to make and delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
     1 cup of all purpose flour
     2 tbs of sugar
     1/8 tsp of salt
    5 tbs of very cold butter
    3-4 tbs of ice water
     Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process the dry ingredients for a couple of seconds.  Next cut butter into 1/2 inch pieces and drop into flour.  Mix for about 10 to 12 pulses.  You should have pea size crumbs.  Now add 3 tbs of ice water and pulse about six times until the dough comes together.  If it doesn't come together then add one more tbs of water.  It shouldn't take more than that.  It is very important not to overwork the dough because it will become tough and not flaky.  Wrap dough in plastic and put in refrigerator.
   1 1/2 lbs of figs cut in half
   zest of 1 medium lemon
   2 tbs of apricot jam
   2 tbs of butter
     Combine the figs, jam, and zest in a bowl and set aside.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out dough to about 13 inches on a piece of parchment paper.  Mix some plain bread crumbs with sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle some of the mixture in the center of the dough.  Lift the parchment paper and put it on a cookie sheet.  Now add the filling and fold the dough up about 2 inches around the sides.  Dot the middle with butter and brush the folded ends with an egg wash.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for about 25 minutes, rotate pan and bake for 20 minutes more.  Check to make sure the crust isn't burning rotate once more and cook for about another 10 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling.  Cool on a rack.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Catching Up

      I have not posted anything in the past month because we all have been very busy with work and getting ready for school.  But now that we have settled into a routine, I am ready to tell you what has been happening on our little urban farm.
Eggplants Galore. 
We had a great year for eggplants.  I have been breading and frying them most of the summer.
Recently I decided it would be nice to marinate them for a change.  First I peel and cut the eggplants into strips.  Then I bring 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water to a boil.  Shut off the flame and put the eggplant strips in and let them soak for about 3-5 minutes.  I drain them and let cool.  Next I squeeze as much liquid as I can out of the eggplants and lay them in a paper towel.

     Now I chop up some garlic and oregano and mix it with the eggplant strips.  Add a little olive oil and put it in a jar.  Add a hot pepper and the top it off with more olive oil and voila we have marinated eggplant.  You can serve this in an antipasto,  put in a sandwich, or top it on a crostini.
Anyway you decide to serve it,  It tastes delicious.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Garden Notes

Kentucky Blue Pole Beans
      In May we planted pole beans.  So far the Kentucky Blue variety has been performing very well.
It is a high producer of 6-8 inch long pods and they have been producing all month long.  I have used them in salads, raw and cooked.  I also sauteed them in garlic and olive oil.  They make a great side for any meal. Hopefully I can get at least one more month out of them.  We didn't plant enough to jar them, but thats's ok.  We were just trying a new variety this year.  Next year we will plant more.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Crab Season

spaghetti with crab sauce
     My family hates the dog days of August.  After all it's the end of the summer and we're tired of the hot and humid weather.  The start of school is just around the corner and we have to get our summer assignments done.  But there is one thing we all love about August.  "Blue Claw Crabs".
     August is the start of blue claw crab season in New York.  My family loves it made in a sweet tomato sauce poured over a bed of spaghetti.  I  make it every friday during the season.
     I buy about a dozen live crabs and have my fish monger take the backs off and clean them.  Its best to try and cook them as soon as possible.  I brown them in a big pot with some olive oil.  Then I add some garlic and canned plum tomatoes.  I usually put the canned tomatoes in the blender and then pass them through a sieve to remove the seeds. But you can also crush them by hand if you want a chunkier sauce.  Then I add salt pepper and fresh basil to taste.  I bring it to a boil, then let it simmer for about 2 hours.  Boil a pound of spaghetti until el dente. Pour crab sauce over spaghetti.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hen of the Month

          Miss August is our one year old red star, Ginger.  She is very affectionate and loves to be handled. Every time we go into the coop, she follows us in. She jumps on to the perch and waits to be petted. She lays a nice deep brown egg.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

First Tomatoes of the Season

Juicy sweet ruby red tomatoes
ripened to perfection
     We just started picking our first tomatoes of the season.  So far the tomato plants have been doing well.  We have used them in salads and sandwiches.  As the season progresses I will make tarts, bruschetta and panzanella.  Nothing is better than eating a tomato warmed from the sun and right off the vine.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pickling Time

                                 These are the pickling cucumbers we grew from seeds.
We quartered them lengthwise.

                                       We made 4 quarts of dill spears and 2 quarts of bread and
                               butter chips. In the next several weeks we'll continue to pickle
                               our cucumbers.  I'm thinking about canning a zesty dill pickle by
                               adding some red hot chiles to the mix.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fall Planting

                                              The garden is prepared for fall planting.
                                              Coming soon: cabbage, radish, lettuce, spinach
                                                                     and beets.

Onion Harvest

                                                   We harvested our first onions.
                                                    Ciopollini and Red Torpedo

Hen of the Month

Our Girl Ike
                     Miss July's pick of the chick is our plymouth bard rock, Ike.
                    She is our lead hen. First to the treats, first to the food & water, and first to
                    the best roosting spot at night.  She is the protector of the flock. And at four
                    years old she is still one of our best egg layers.                                    

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Beet and Orange Salad with Goat Cheese



              This salad I made from the beets and lettuce in our garden.  It is absolutely delicious and easy to make. The candied walnuts gave it a nice sweet crunch.

4 medium beets - scrubbed             1/4 cup of orange juice      
and trimmed                                       1 tbs of balsamic vinegar
1 navel orange - sectioned              1tbs of chopped shallots 
1/3 cup of chopped walnuts             1tsp of sugar
3 tbs of maple syrup                          1/2 cup of olive oil
salad greens                                       2 ounces of goat cheese

1.  Place the beets into a sauce pan and fill with enough water to cover.
Bring to a boil and cook for 20-30 minutes, until fork tender.  Drain and cool, 
then cut into cubes.

2.  While the beets are cooking, place walnuts in a skillet and toast over medium heat.
     Add maple syrup then cook and stir until evenly coated. Set aside and cool.

3.  In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, shallots, sugar and olive oil to make the dressing.

4.  Place greens, orange wedges, beets, in a salad bowl.  drizzle with dressing and add candied walnuts and goat cheese.

Monday, June 25, 2012

garlic and beet harvest

                                Harvested garlic and beets last week

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hen of the Month

                                                                      Miss June

                Every month we will be featuring one of our hens. The month of June's chick of the pick is Priscilla.  She is a one year old Astrolop.  This breed is from Australia.  They are good egg layers and have a very good temperament.  Right now Priscilla is very broody.  All she wants to do is hatch a clutch.  We have to keep chasing her out of the nest box.  But she kept going back in so..........

                     We had to take her completely out of the coop.  Here she is looking to go back inside.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Bad Egg

                            Every now and then even a chicken has a bad day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Homemade Mayonnaise

        One thing I have been wanting to make with our fresh eggs is homemade mayonnaise.  After three attempts with different recipes, I finally found one that worked perfectly.  The key to making great mayonnaise is in the technique.  I found that using my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a whisk attachment worked best in getting the proper consistency.
                               1 whole egg & 2 egg yolks
                               1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
                               1/2 tsp of salt
                               1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil
      First whip the eggs for 30 seconds.  Then add the lemon juice and salt.  Whip for another 30 seconds.  Now very, very slowly, in a thin stream, pour the vegetable oil in the bowl while mixing on high speed. This step is extremely important to help the ingredients emulsify and to get the right consistency of the mayonnaise.  The mayo could be stored in the refrigerator for several days.


First Salad of the Year

Finally! Our first fresh salad made completely from our garden!
Arugula, lettuce and radishes were our first veggies to come up and were absolutely delicious and fresh.
We wait all year to skip supermarket vegetables and have only our own.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Planting Spring Potatoes

 We finally received our seed potatoes in the mail. We planted them in trenches because, as the plant grows, we hill up the dirt around the potato plant. This is because the potato grows from the seed up to the surface. This method works great for us giving the potatoes an area to grow. 

The trenches are 12 inches deep and 12 feet long.
We planted three types of potatoes:
  1. Yukon Gold
  2. Rio Grande
  3. Sangre (red skin potato)

Spring has definitely sprung around here! All our plants are starting to bud and are growing strong.
This is our blueberry bush. We have to be quick picking these because the birds in our area love fresh blueberries as much as we do.

This is last years herb garden, untouched! Because of the mild weather this winter, everything survived and flourished this spring. We had fresh parsley all year.

Our herb garden includes : sage, parsley, oregano, chives, cilantro.

Our strawberry plant is also a favorite of the birds. However, being so close to the ground, they face another threat, slugs!