Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Got Eggs? Make Pasta!

The new chickens (in relative terms) are starting to lay, which means I have gone from 6 eggs a day to 10 or more.  Since they are new eggs, they are bite-size, so they can be hard to sell.  We've eaten quite a few, I've used a bunch in bread, but there are more coming every day, and at one point I had 6 1/2 dozen in the fridge, after selling what I could.
So I tried to find a way to use up the eggs-mostly the really little ones.  Then I got the idea: pasta!!  It's a fairly eggy thing, so I should be able to use a whole bunch of eggs at one time and use them in a good way.  I have never made pasta before, so I researched a little on recipes and techniques and then dove in. 

The recipe I used was this:
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp water

I pretty much made it up, and it was super easy to double, and seemed to work beautifully.  I knew the guidelines for pasta were one egg to one cup flour, and then a little water.  Some recipes have the olive oil, some don't.  I decided to add it to my recipe, and it worked really well.

For this, I used two appliances.  The food processor to mix, and the mixer to make the pasta.  In the food processor, put in the flour and then add the eggs.  Whirl it around a minute or so, until it looks grainy.  Then add the olive oil and mix for a second.  Then keep the processor on and add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until it starts to look like it's coming together.  Then stop the processor immediately.  You don't want the processor to whirl around the dough, because it will get tough, like pie crust would get tough.  Instead, open the processor and take out the blobs of dough and knead it all together instead.  Don't go crazy--just knead it until combined into a nice lump.

Then comes the fun part--rolling.  I borrowed the KitchenAid pasta attachment from my dad.  WOW!  That is just too much fun!  Take your combined dough and put it through the sheeter.

This is sun-dried tomato pasta going through the thickest level of the sheeter
I did run it through and fold it back onto itself and then run it through again once or twice, just to give it a little cohesiveness.  Maybe it'll make it lighter (maybe it'll make it dense as a brick--I have no idea).  Then I would make the sheeter smaller and smaller to make the pasta thinner.  The best I could do without it falling apart was number 5.  That was a nice consistency.  Oh, and don't be a hero here--don't make your sheets too long.  It's very hard to control in the machine if it's really long.

Then you hang the pasta to dry.  You can do this on your handy-dandy pasta rack (or my dad's handy-dandy pasta rack),

Or be really classy and hang it on the back of the chairs.

I did both, because that's the way I roll.  Either way, you've got to hang it until it's a little dry on both sides, which means you probably have to turn it.  How long does that take?  It depends.  If you do this on the type of day that I'm doing it on,

ie: raining cats and dogs so that there are pond-puddles in the front yard, then it'll take longer than say, on a day when there is sun out (sun?  What is that?)  You can hurry it along a little by using a fan.  Be patient, either way.

No matter what, you should wait until your pasta has gotten a little sheen to it and feels a little leathery.  Then it's ready to cut.

That's the really fun part.  If you've gotten the dryness right, then the strands will not stick together as they come out of the cutter.  And then yep, you have to hang it back up to dry some more.

After you are done, then you can eat it, or you can store it.  I made sure mine was pretty darn dry, and then I bagged it up and froze it.
A little pasta.  I don't do anything by halves, do I?
Now it's ready to eat whenever.  What a treat!

This is what I've learned from this:
1.  Don't mix too much in the food processor.
2.  Don't run the pasta through the sheeter too many times--it'll get too sticky.
3.  Whole wheat flour will make drier pasta than white flour.
4.  Don't make the sheets too thin or too long.
5.  Don't rush the drying process, but don't wait until it's brittle, either.
6.  There will be little bits of pasta all over the floor, no matter what you do.
7.  This is addictive

After I had made a few batches of straight white flour pasta and some whole wheat pasta, I got creative.  I made some sun-dried tomato pasta, some tomato whole-wheat pasta, and some pumpkin pasta. 

I would tell you how to do that, except I totally made it all up.  Seemed to come out really well, though. 

I hope you all try this soon!
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Imperfect Harvest

Today was the day that it finally stopped raining and dried up a little (a very little) and I could finally harvest honey.  It's already getting late in the season, so I did not harvest a lot.  I want to be sure they have enough for the winter. 

I took 2 frames that were full, but they were only really full on the fronts.  The backs had little on them.

My very scientific method of gathering was this:  open the hive, pull out the frame, shake all the bees off, brush the remaining bees off, and walk away very fast so the bees couldn't get me.  Then quickly put the frame in the bucket in the house and close the door.  Repeat.  Add smoke fairly liberally throughout.

I didn't get stung.  Happy day!

That part worked pretty well--it was the uncapping that was not pretty.

It is WAY too easy to cut the comb right off the frame without meaning to.  I need a lot more practice.  I did what I could, over the bucket, and got a bunch of it in.  However, I did remove more comb than I would have liked and it's now sitting in a strainer over a bowl on the warm stove, so it can drain.

This was pretty messy.  I didn't get much on the floor, so that's good, but it would have been nice not to get so much comb.  I can see the allure of the extractor.

After I was done and got as much honey off as I could, I brought the frames back to the bees  to clean and repair.  I did not get stung, although they were more ready for me this time.  Happy day!

And that's the honey harvest for this year.  You know something?  The honey tastes like flowers.  More bees next year!  No doubt about it.

Edited to add:

The results are in!  After letting it set in the bucket overnight, this was the take:

That's a 1/2 gallon jar, so it was about 1/4 gallon and a cake of wax, which I rendered afterwards.  Not a bad haul for what turned out to be one complete (front and back) frame of honey.  The taste is incredible, and I am so happy.  I am surprised at the color of it, though.  It's so much darker than I would have thought.  I wonder what those bees were eating??

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Friday, September 23, 2011

The Tails Tell the Tale

You might remember here, that I had read about a new, foolproof way to tell which chicks were boys and which were girls.  If the chicks had 3/4" tails at two weeks, they were a hen.  If they had 1/4" tails, they were a rooster.  Everyone pretty much had tails except for Walnut, a little brown chick.  So, three girls and one boy, by this way of telling.
Yeah.....not so much.  Now the chicks are 9 weeks old, and their tails are telling me a very different story.

The little brown chicks, who had no tails or very small tails (one especially) at the time are turning out to have hen's tails, if you can see her in the back here.  The white ones, who had tails at the time and should have been girls, are turning out to look like roosters.  Do those look like sickle feathers to anyone else?

I'd almost place my bets on two roosters and two hens here, but I still have to wait.  The one in the first picture, though, I'd 100% say rooster.  The comb is red, the feathers are curved on top, and he usually is leading the pack.  The other white looks like a rooster to me, too, but he's slower maturing. 

Only time will tell.  But I think we can cross this method off the list!
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Storyteller

My boy.  I love him.  I love my girl, too, but this story is about my boy.  He's seven and a natural storyteller.  He always has been, and he was always the one out of the two of them to make words into other words.  Instead of mosquito, for years they were called sbgitoes.  Flowers were flowlers.  Tomorrow was famarto.  And if he were to tell a story, you'd be brought round 180 degrees until he got to the point.

At seven, he no longer calls flowers flowlers or tomorrow famarto, but he is still a natural with the storytelling.  Yesterday, when he came home from school, he had one for me.

Showing me a band-aid on his hand.
"Look at this."

"What happened?"  I asked.

Showing me a boo-boo on his knee.
"Look at this."

"What happened?"  I asked again.

"Well, um ok, you know Mark in my class?" (no, I don't, but I nodded anyway, because we all live in his head with him and see what he sees everyday) "We bumped into each other."

"You bumped into Mark?" I asked.

"No, no.  You know Mark in my class?   He has a brother named Matthew.  He's not in my class, he's in another class."

"Is he in your grade?"

"Yeah, but I don't know his teacher."

"That's ok.  So Mark has a brother named Matthew in another class.  I guess they are twins, right?"

"Yeah, they're twins.  But Mark is older.  Mark is seven and Matthew is six".

I blinked and decided to let that go. 
"Ok, so you bumped into Matthew.  Where?"

"Yeah, you know that there are two Matthews in that class.  Matthew W and Matthew C.  But Matthew W is with Mark.  Matthew C isn't.  I have a Matthew in my class.  He's Matthew R.  But we don't have to say Matthew R, because he's the only Matthew.  There's two Aidens, though, so we have to say Aiden P and Aiden D.  But not Matthew.  There's just one Matthew."

"Ok, so you bumped into Matthew."

"Yes, not Matthew C, because Matthew W is with Mark."

"So you bumped into Matthew W."



"At recess, on the blacktop."

"Oh, ok."

"But not the front blacktop, the little blacktop.  The front blacktop isn't open yet."

"Ok, I know which one."

"The little blacktop that's on the back of school.  We didn't go on the front blacktop."

"Got it.  The one on the back."

"Right.  You know, the one by the out door?  That one."

"Yes, I got it.  I know which one.  The one outside the Kindergarten hall."

"Yeah, that one."

"So you bumped into Matthew W on the small blacktop.  How did you bump into him?"

"I was running and I bumped into him."

"Ok.  Did you go to the nurse?"

"Yeah, and I got band-aids, but the one on my knee came off."

"I see that."

"And this one is coming off, too" (he says as he peels off the band-aid).   "Can I have another one?"

"Did the nurse clean it for you?"

"Yeah. Can I have a band-aid?"

"Ok.  Hold still."  (cleaning the wound)  "Better?"

"OW!!!  That stings!  The nurse didn't make it sting!"  (shaking his hand all over the place)

"Sorry, buddy, I've got to clean it.  Hold on, here's the band-aid."  (putting the band-aid on with some ointment.) "Better?"

"Yeah.  Can I have a snack?"

That's my boy, alright! 
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Baking Day--A Good Change

With this summer come and gone (let's just be honest--it's over, folks) and the first year of vegetable gardening under my belt here, I've started to look around and see what else can we do to make ourselves more of a producer, rather than a consumer family.  How can we expand?  What else can we produce?  I have my own ideas, and plenty of them.  But in my house that can meet with some resistance, so I have to start off slowly.  For example, the homemade laundry detergent I made earlier this year is only used by me, because my husband "doesn't trust it".  Sigh.  But I started making yogurt about 4 months ago and that was a hit, so I went on to making granola bars.  Not too hard either, and yeay!  Everyone liked them. Then that sort of evolved into other baked things as well, and now there is a day for baking at our house.

I've done three Sunday baking days now, and I have to say I really enjoy them.  I usually need a recharge day every week, and instead of sitting around, I bake.  I always did enjoy baking, and have made cookies and pies for the kids (and us) for years.  I now make from-scratch birthday cakes for birthdays.  But I only made bread on occasion, and threw in other things here and there.  I am starting to become more regular in my baking now, and bread is a regular arrival at the party.  I just didn't want the kids eating that air-fluffy corn-syrup laden stuff anymore, not to mention that I didn't want us to pay for it.  Baking our own bread is cheaper, better for us, and more delicious.  And the variety!  So far I've done only white, wheat, and sourdough, but remember, I have to go slowly.  I don't want a rebellion.

Yesterday, being Sunday, was baking day.  I made

Banana bars, packed and ready to be added to lunches.  Snacks are a struggle at my house.  The kids want stuff I don't want them to have.  I am still looking for good alternatives to "the usual".  This one is a trial run.  If anyone has a recipe for a snack for kids that is a hit at their house, I'm open to suggestions.

Granola.  I haven't done this one before, either.  What an easy thing to do, though!

Bread.  Really the whole point of the day.  Two loaves gets us through one week.  My kids LOVE bread.  Now they eat it for anytime!

Pie!!  Didn't think I'd forget, did you?  I love pie.  Ahhhh, pie.  This one is pumpkin custard.  The pumpkin is from last year's pie pumpkins from a local farm. 

And every Sunday includes a cookie of some sort, usually.  This time, gingerbread.  I just really wanted them and I'm SO bored with making chocolate chip.  Probably it's the change in the weather.  They are outrageous!

I am hoping this will become a habit with me.  It shouldn't be a problem all fall and winter, when it's colder, but I know I'll have to curb myself to still do this in the Spring and Summer.  It's so hard to keep myself inside when it's so nice out.  Maybe by the time I have some months under my belt it'll just be second nature.

What other changes to I have in store?  Cloth napkins are up next.  I'm still sewing them and dreading the reception they'll get, but I've got to try.  After that, making maple syrup.  Yep, that's a new one for us, and I have found some spiles and buckets on ebay (LOVE ebay) at a great price, so we'll be trying that one this winter.  Then dairy goats, meat chickens, growing oats or wheat, field corn...the possibilities are endless!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bad, Bad Fiddler!

I have a confession to make.  I haven't fiddled since mid July.  Bad, bad me!  In all fairness, it's due to this:

My bow broke!!  WAAAHH!

It was always sort of going, but one day, it just went.  And though it's still holding onto the strings, they're not tight enough and the bow pitch is awkward, and it's just squeaky sounding no matter what I do.  And I'm squeaky enough without the bow adding to it, let me tell you.  It gets depressing to hear myself worse than I actually am (and I'm not that amazing to begin with).

However, I did take the fiddle out this afternoon to show her some love.  I tuned her and squeaked away and I have to say, that though I sounded pretty bad, I didn't forget most of the fingerings and I played the songs I already knew pretty smoothly.  Yeay!

So there's hope yet.  I guess I'll have to grow a stomach for the squeak until I can afford a new bow.  Then I'll squeak as per my usual instead of doubly so. 


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Monday, September 12, 2011

A Walk in the Woods

I'm not really comfortable sharing very personal things, so suffice it to say that yesterday was a very difficult day for my husband and I.  I worked in the Twin Towers up to a month before the attacks, and my husband worked across the street from them.  He saw things that day that he hardly talks about, and I, who was heavily pregnant at the time and working in Midtown (because I just couldn't ride the subway anymore), thought that I had lost him and that the last words I had said to him were "I don't care what they tell you.  If it seems like something is wrong there, get the hell out and come up to me".  Then the phones went dead, and of course, it took hours to find out what had really happened.  I had no idea if I had a husband anymore, until he came walking up 5th Avenue.

I can tell you that 10 years is not enough time to erase the horror-it just dulls it a little.  And it doesn't ever feel like it's been 10 years when I think about that day. 

We needed to get away yesterday and do something away from news and stories.  We went for a hike.  There is a preserve 15 minutes up the road from us, hidden away.  It was really interesting, as it has ice caves.  Unfortunately, there was no ice in them, but it was a really cool experience anyway (ha!  Get it?).  This was our day in summary.

We were going up there.

Pretty trees

And lots of rocks

BIG rocks

And nooks for little people to go into

At the top: the view

Some of us were very prepared

A bit of a walk and then down to the caves

And yep, down those too

And then in

And then up

And in another cave

And when we came out, some of us were really hungry

A good day overall

But boy, were we tired!

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is It Dinner Time YET??

I can tell fall is here, even though the calendar disagrees.  The animals are hungry.

The geese and ducks start yapping like crazy and the chickens rush the door half an hour before dinner time.

Even the cats are hungry.

Dinner, anyone?

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