Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Making No-Knead Bread

A while ago I had bookmarked a blog post about making no-knead bread.  When I say "a while ago," I would estimate that it was at least 2 years, if not 3 years ago.  Sometimes, it takes me a while to get around to doing things!  Finally, though, I remembered that I wanted to try making this bread, and I bought my ingredients and set about trying it.

The blog post I used for my bread is here:
The original post gives a number of variations on this bread, all of which sound really good.  I wanted to try the regular version first, just to see how it worked out for me and whether I wanted to make it on a more regular basis.  I really like the fact that this recipe has an overnight raising time during which I do not need to do anything with it.  I also like the fact that the timing is flexible.  I'm not repeating all the details of the recipe here - please use the original blog source above.  I just wanted to show how mine came out.

The basics of this bread are so easy.  Just combine 3 cups of flour, 1 3/4 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of rapid-rise yeast, and 1 1/2 cups of water in a reasonably large sized bowl.  The dough will be sort of sticky and messy.  I had to add a little more water to get my flour incorporated.  As the source blog instructs, I covered it with plastic wrap and left it on the counter.  The recommended time is 12-18 hours.  I think mine went for about 20 hours, so don't worry about it if you're a bit over on the timing.  What was initially a gooey blob in the bottom of the bowl rose to become this:

The bowl is 10 inches wide and about 6 inches tall, so that may help with perspective.

I had set my oven to 450 F as required, and I used my red Kitchen Aid Dutch oven for this recipe, which I put in the oven to heat for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, I scraped the dough out of the bowl onto a heavily floured wax-paper surface, formed it into a round-ish shape, and put the plastic wrap over it again.  I then went away for 25 minutes while the Dutch oven was heating and the dough was considering its future.

At the 30 minute mark, I removed the hot pan from the oven, took off the lid, and dropped my dough into the pan.  At this point, it looks pretty pathetic.

I put the lid on and let it bake for 30 minutes as instructed.  Then, I removed the lid and baked it for its final 15 minutes.  Here it is just after removing it from the oven.  Let me tell you, the smell was amazing!

It produced a lovely loaf with a crusty exterior and a lovely moist interior.

This is the loaf after a couple of slices were removed - you can see that the interior is airy and not too dense.  I'll definitely be making this bread again, and will try some of the variations given in the original post.  The orange and cranberry sounds great, as does the lemon rosemary.  I do have a bread machine and I use it from time to time, but this recipe is just as easy and makes a delightful loaf.  I thoroughly recommend it!

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Wedding

I never blogged about the wedding.  I wasn't blogging much at the time, and it seems like such an afterthought to blog about it now, but I feel like I should blog about it just to record the memories. Marc and I were married on a beautiful September day, when the sun shone and the birds sang and there was a little bit of magic in the air.

I think that part of me had given up on the dream of a wedding day, or ever finding a person that would put up with my idiosyncrasies and peculiarities for long enough to want to share a permanent bond with me.  That made this day all the more thrilling and exciting for me, and I wanted it to be really memorable.  At the same time, I am now geographically very far from most of my friends, and haven't really made any strong bonds in this area, so it was with some sadness that I realized it had to be a very small wedding.  There's nothing wrong with small weddings, but there were at least a dozen people I wished could have been there, but whom I simply couldn't ask to attend, given the distance and the cost of travel these days.  As it was, we had 16 guests, mostly local, at the lovely Magnetic Hill Winery here in Moncton, New Brunswick.  The winery features a historic small barn that was just the right size for our small ceremony and dinner.

We had some difficulty in finding an officiant because neither one of us is religious, and yet we wanted someone who respected our wish for a meaningful ceremony.  We found the perfect officiant through the Unitarian Fellowship.  He has presided over a wide range of ceremonies including Wiccan and Pagan rituals, as well as mixed-faith marriages.  We felt a good connection when we met with him, and decided that he was our choice to perform the ceremony. We carefully studied a wide range of material for wedding ceremonies and selected wording that was meaningful and significant to us.  It made for a unique and customized ceremony that met all of our preferences.

The dress was an absolute fiasco that almost didn't happen!  I had ordered what I thought would be the perfect dress in a lovely pale silvery grey colour, and I had planned to do turquoise and green embroidered beadwork on the bodice.  Sadly, when the dress arrived, it was sack-like and shapeless and made me look like death warmed over.  I was crushed, and didn't know what I would do.  I turned to the internet and found Frock Follies, and ordered a crushed velvet custom dress 6 weeks before the wedding.  I didn't tell Marc much about it, but said it included dark green.  He went ahead with his order from the Gentleman's Emporium website based in the US, and didn't tell me what he had ordered either.  Marc's outfit arrived quickly (but I wasn't allowed to see it).  Meanwhile, I grew increasingly panicky about my dress since the dressmaker wasn't sending any updates and I didn't want to be a pest about asking, so I just kept quiet.  Almost miraculously, my dress arrived on the Monday of the wedding week (the wedding was on Friday).  My huge sigh of relief was heard throughout the city I'm sure!  Fortunately, it fit really well and was beautifully made.

The most amazing thing about the dress and Marc's ensemble is that they matched almost perfectly - as if they had been made to be together.  Even though neither of us saw what the other was ordering, or knew anything other than "dark green" being a colour, we both chose a nearly identical colour and we both chose the cream accent colour without knowing the other's choice.

Our rings were custom made by Magee's Jewelers in Fredericton.  They specialize in custom engagement and wedding rings, and were delighted to work with the stones that I had.  The stones included in our rings, as well as the gold, came from a number of different rings passed on to me from my ancestors, including my grandmother and great-grandmother on my mother's side.  Having rings made from the treasures of these strong and resilient women who were a part of my history made me feel as if they, too, were a part of our special day.  In addition, we had a large copper jug filled with fresh sunflowers. The copper jug belonged to my grandfather, so he too was there to celebrate with us that day.

I was absolutely delighted that my cousin Simon from England was able to attend.  I had not expected any of my family members to attend, apart from my parents.  I was really surprised and so pleased that he was able to come for a visit and he turned out to be an absolute champion at attending to critical matters that arose on the day, like helping to frost cupcakes and fill water pitchers.  It was truly a blessing to have him with us.

Having my Dad walk me down the aisle was one of the best parts.  I feel so lucky to still have both my parents healthy and able to be there for our wedding, not to mention helping with many of the preparations and decorating aspects.  It was extremely difficult not to dissolve into an emotional puddle on the walk down the aisle, but I managed to keep it together.  Only just!  Do take a moment to notice the stunning bouquet - my mother is an absolute whiz with flowers and she made it just for me.  The stems are wrapped with a lovely green ribbon.

We also enjoyed the musical talents of a wonderful harpist, Dorothy Brzezicki, throughout the ceremony and afterwards.  She was absolutely perfect.

We wrote our own vows from scratch, and Marc even altered his on the day of the wedding, which was a bold move, but we were able to read them from prepared, printed cards, so it was easy for him to make those last-minute changes.  I'm sharing a video here of the ring exchange and kiss, so if you weren't there, you can still share in a little piece of our day.   We didn't have a professional videographer for the wedding - this was taken by Marc's sister-in-law.  The lighting isn't perfect, but it is the words that count.

I was unable to find a local cake decorating person to create the cake I really wanted for the wedding, so I made my own cupcakes instead.  We had a sunflower theme, so I made chocolate and lemon cupcakes and frosted them to look like sunflowers.  (thank you Pinterest!)  My cousin Simon helped out with the frosting and we displayed them on a rented cupcake stand.  It was just right for the theme and everybody seemed to enjoy the cupcakes.

We were also delighted by Marc's Dad and his wife who surprised us with a musical performance, aided by the post-dinner jazz trio.  Martin played the keyboard and Holly sang for us - they are both extremely talented!

I felt tremendously blessed to have so many people who helped with making our day the magical moment that it was, and am thankful to have such wonderful, loving family and friends.  All in all, it was the perfect day and the perfect wedding.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Friday's Hunt (on Saturday)

I'm trying to get back into the blogging groove but I don't always have the right topic at hand, so today I'm doing Friday's Hunt, a day late.  Hopefully the hostess of Friday's Hunt won't mind!

The objective of Friday's Hunt is to find the 3 things on the list, and blog about them.  This week's list of 3 things was:
1. Starts with I
2. Week's Favorite
3. Something Blue

For number 1, I was a bit stumped, because I couldn't think of things starting with I that were interesting to talk about.  I did find the letter "I" though, and that was in the form of my spinning wheel bobbin, partially full of spun yarn.  Do you see the capital I?  The ends of the bobbin form the top and bottom bars, while the yarn being spun is along the long bar of the I.

Today, for the first time since I have lived in New Brunswick, I went to a spinning event!  It was great for me to get out and be with some other spinners.  I used to really enjoy my Iowa spinning guild, and the fun Friday nights we would have spinning and chatting about our lives.  I really miss that group tremendously, and also the enjoyment it brought to my life.  It has been really difficult for me to fit in to New Brunswick, and the city of Moncton in particular, although I often find it difficult to fit in, so it's not surprising.  

Four years ago, I went to a Maritime Spinners Retreat as a yarn and fibre vendor, and remarkably, somebody from that long-ago weekend remembered me, and added me to an invitation for an event today.  From 12:30 to 4:30, a group of local spinners, knitters, crocheters and rug hookers met for fun and fibre festivities.  I really enjoyed myself.  Even more remarkably, a few people at today's event remembered me from that weekend, four years ago, and even remembered my name.  I wish I had the ability to remember people's names like that!  Hopefully there will be more opportunities for me to participate in spinning days with this group, although this is the first time they've had this kind of get-together.

Today I spun some green Blue-faced Leicester fibre from my stash in the "Terrarium" colourway.  

I also spun the fawn-coloured fibre you see in the "Letter I" picture.  That is some lovely 100% llama roving from Eden Hills Farm.  Specifically, it's Llenny the Llama!  I was so excited to be spinning this fibre because Teresa sent it to me as a sample for an assessment, since it's the first time she ever had her llama's fibre processed, and she's not a spinner (yet), so she wanted someone to give her an opinion on it.   It is extremely soft and has a long staple length, since Llenny had not been sheared in quite some time.  The mill that processed the fibre did a great job on cleaning it and there is a little bit of hay in the fibre, but not much, which is what I would expect for a roving that hasn't been through any acid baths or other harsh commercial processes.  Those processes remove every speck of hay, but also take some of the 'life' out of the fibre.  The colour is very even and there are very few lumps or second cuts in the roving.  The fibre is even and consistent and spins up beautifully.  I expect that it won't be long before you can purchase some Llenny roving for yourself if Teresa decides to add it to her farm market offerings.  Here are a couple of close-up shots of the single ply I have spun so far.  I plan to ply it into a 2 or 3-ply yarn afterwards and do a test knit with it.  Thank you so much for sending me the sample, Teresa!

The second item on the list is Week's Favourite.  That was tricky for me because this was a busy week.  I spent Wednesday through Friday in Halifax visiting my parents while also accommodating work meetings.  I hadn't seen them since Christmas, so it was really great to visit and spend some time catching up.  I do wish I lived closer to them, because now it's a 3-hour drive, but it's still better than the 33-hour drive when I lived in Iowa.  However, I didn't take any pictures there, so I couldn't use that for my blog post.  When I returned home to Moncton though, I was surprised by a special gift that Marc had bought for me while I was away.  The newest flock member!
Although this little sheep doesn't have a name yet, he certainly brought a big smile to my face and made me especially happy to be home.  That was one of my favourite moments of the week.  

The last item on the list is "something blue."  Today, after a busy day of spinning, it was good to come home and relax for a little while with a glass of Pinot Grigio.  I had it in my favourite blue wine glass.  I bought these glasses many years ago at either Pier 1 Imports or Wicker Emporium - I can't remember which.  I love the deep blue colour of the glass and always enjoy using them, even when it's not for wine!
I put the glass next to our glass rooster, who also has some blue "feathers" on him.  He's a handsome guy and he doesn't steal any of my wine.  Today's wine is "20 Bees" Pinot Grigio, which is an Ontario wine made from 100% Ontario-grown grapes.  I like the little man riding on the back of the bee on the label.  And note, he's wearing blue pants.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lemon Chicken Enchiladas (with modifications)

Oh dear.  I cannot believe it has been over a year since I last wrote a blog post.  I suppose that's a good indication that it has been a busy year, and indeed it has.  Sometimes I think about writing and I decide that I haven't got anything to write about.  Now, as I sit here typing, I am thinking of about 100 things I could probably write about, but haven't.  I'm not even sure why today seemed to be the day that I should write a post, but it is.

Perhaps one reason I thought I'd write a post is because I decided to try a recipe posted by a friend of mine from Iowa.  I try to keep up with her blog even though I don't have a lot of time for blog reading these days.  In part, that's because she always has cute goat pictures, and I can't resist a cute goat!  I wanted to show how well this recipe turned out, even though I took it for a walk that was a bit off the beaten path.  So, although I should probably write about a lot of other things, today I'm writing about supper.

Over on the Eden Hills blog, you can see the original recipe that I used as the basis for tonight's creation - Lemon Chicken Enchiladas.  I learned that the recipe made 5 large enchiladas, and I wanted to make either 6 or 8, depending on how many I could fit in the pan, so I thought I should add some extra ingredients to it.

The original recipe starts with sautéeing 1/2 a cup of onion and 1/2 a cup of peppers.  The peppers were crazy expensive in the grocery store (like everything here in Canada these days, due to the poor Canadian dollar value when it comes to US imports).  So, instead I sautéed 2 small sweet onions with about 1.5 cups of diced frozen butternut squash and about a cup of frozen chopped kale.  The amounts are approximate - use your own judgment based on how many you want to make, and what vegetables you prefer!

I then added about half a can of black beans, and about 2 cups of chopped cooked broccoli.  I'm always looking for ways to add more vegetables to our diet, so this seemed like a recipe that would allow for lots of modification.

I love the freezer bags of chopped kale - I can easily add some to casseroles, soups, stir-fry dishes, and other types of recipes without any trouble.  It also means I don't end up with sad, wilted looking fresh kale in my fridge because I forget it's there or I don't have time to wash, de-rib, and chop it all. Frozen veggies are a life saver some days!  I used the PC Blue Menu black beans (available in Canada) and the broccoli was from Costco - frozen in the microwave baggies.

After the veggie and bean mix was thoroughly heated, I added 1 tub of PC Blue Menu low fat ricotta (available in Canada).  Use whatever brand you have available.

The original recipe called for 2 sliced chicken breasts, but boneless chicken thighs were on sale this week, so I used those instead.  I sauteed them in a bit of EVOO and then chopped them into bite-sized pieces.  If you prefer, use a chicken substitute, or any other meat or protein source you enjoy!

When the chicken was cooked, I deglazed the pan with the soy sauce and lemon juice called for in the original recipe.  That recipe called for 3 tablespoons of each, but I used 6, for good measure!  It made a nice rich sauce.

I added the deglazing sauce and chopped chicken to the veggie mix, and then began the process of making the enchiladas.

Each one was made by scooping a couple of large spoonfuls of the mixture into a large size whole wheat tortilla (Casa Mendoza brand), and rolling it up.  I managed to get 6 of them into a 9 x 13" glass pan.  As you can see, I had quite a lot of the filling mixture left over.  I'll probably make some more later this week, or maybe do something else with the filling mixture.  For now, it's in the fridge. I covered the enchiladas with a jar of Classico Tomato and Basil pasta sauce.  The original recipe has a lovely separate recipe for the enchilada sauce, but I was a bit pressed for time, so using the Classico sauce helped me get these done quickly.  One could add any number of spices to the sauce, as recommended in the original recipe.  I tend to like things fairly mild, so I didn't add any chili or other hot spices to the mix.  It would have been easy to add some straight into the jar of sauce and shake it up before pouring onto the enchiladas.

After that, I covered the top with grated 3-cheddar blend.  At this point, I re-checked the original recipe and saw that I was supposed to bake them before adding the cheese.  Oops.  I put foil over the top before putting them in the oven so the cheese wouldn't burn.  I also sprinkled on some ground mixed Italian herbs before popping it in the oven.

It came out looking like this!

This dish baked for about 45 minutes at 375F, and then I took the dish out and let it stand for about 10 minutes before trying to extricate the enchiladas from the pan.  This worked relatively well, although it certainly helps if you have a long spatula or other utensil for sliding under the length of the tortilla before transferring it to the plate.

Both Marc and I really enjoyed them and it will make 3 meals for us, since we had plenty by having 1 enchilada each for supper.  There are 5 veggies in this recipe (kale, broccoli, squash, onion and tomato) as well as lots of protein from the chicken and black beans, not to mention the cheese, and we had our starch from the whole wheat tortilla, so I felt it was a well balanced meal.  I would definitely do this again and would vary the meat and veggies to suit what I have on hand.  I have to admit that the lemon flavour wasn't particularly noticeable, but that's probably because I used a wider range of ingredients than the original recipe, so it diluted the flavour of the lemon.  Give it a whirl!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Post Holiday Putterings, and a Wee Tiny Little Bit of News

Hello dear reader, and apologies (as usual) for the lengthy absence.  I had a very busy summer and fall in 2014, and then the 4th quarter dropped off rather dramatically in terms of work, but I had many projects and plans to putter about with, and I seem to have been non-stop busy.  I'm trying to be a bit more organized with my time in the new year, and perhaps that will allow me to blog more often.  I do miss it, and I have some former readers who say they miss reading the blog, so I'll try to keep things more up to date.

The holiday season presented some opportunity for crafty bits and pieces to spring forth from my hands, especially since I didn't have a great deal of work in the last quarter for my writing business.  As a result, I made a variety of gifts for friends and family.  Here are some highlights:

The "Flock of Geese" cowl that I made for my father is a free pattern on Ravelry found here, and I really enjoyed working on it.  I've improved my knitting of cables over the past year and really like the way that they spring forth from the needles.  I did this cowl in an Elann brand highland wool and Donegal tweed blend.  My Dad says it keeps his neck warm, and that was the goal!

I made quite a few ornaments for my Mum to hang on the tree.  Included in that group were an English Robin (crochet), a mushroom (crochet), a "partridge" (crochet), a pear (knit), and a snowflake (crochet).  I was relatively pleased with all of them and so was she, which was the intent!

I finally finished the Calm Waters Cowl and gave it to my mother, since she wears a lot of blue-green colours and I thought this would be ideal for her while walking the dog.  I finished it off with some pewter buttons in a Celtic scrollwork design.

I also made Marc a hat, which is great for him to use while snowblowing the driveway or participating in other outdoor activities.

For myself, I've been working on the "Sea Dragon Shawl" which is not yet finished, but progressing slowly.  I really like the pattern and I'm hoping to have it finished before winter is over!

So, these are the things that kept me busy in the months preceding Christmas.

Work is slowly starting to pick up again, and I'm hopeful that 2015 will be another busy year for my small business.  In part, because I hope to finish the renovations on the Nova Scotia farm this year so that it can be put on the market.  But also, in part, because I need to pay for my upcoming....


Squeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  Yes, Marc proposed on Boxing Day and we are hoping to be married in September of 2015.  So there you have it, my tiny little bit of news.  It will be a very tiny little wedding, but rest assured, the love is anything BUT tiny!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A bit of this and that

Gosh, it's been ages and ages since I posted, and I apologize to any readers who still check in from time to time.  I think about blogging on occasion and then I feel a bit overwhelmed and think "where do I start?" and just keep putting it off.  I think it's time for a bit of an update though, so I'll just chat about a few things from the last 6-8 months, and do a random round-up of thoughts.

The Farm:  It's still the pit of despair.  That said, there have been some improvements.  A new roof went on the place last fall, and it doesn't leak any more!  Hooray!  It's a nice forest green colour.
Some more minor projects have continued inside. The stairs were re-routed after my mother took a terrible tumble on them, in order to make them wider and more safe.  A hand rail was also installed.

In the process, a jelly cupboard was installed, or one could call it a pantry area.  It is a good use of space and my Dad made excellent shelving for it.

This summer I will be proceeding with the kitchen renovation, finally, only 3 years after it was supposed to happen.  Did you sense me rolling my eyes during that sentence?  If not, surely you can now!  The overall plan with the farm is to keep improving it until it's actually worth putting on the market, and then to sell it.  It's too isolated, too inconvenient to get to, too much land for my needs, and full of bad memories.

In the long, horrible winter that we had this year, there was an issue with burst pipes, and then an issue with blocked drains.  The basement was flooded for months, sometimes over a foot of water, and the source and drainage issues were not easily dealt with.  In addition, despite repeated attempts, it is difficult to get tradespeople to come out to my location - even when they make appointments, they often don't show up. My carpenter is the glowing exception to this rule, and I am thankful for that.  He does great work.  Anyway, the whole house ended up smelling not unlike a swamp (because it sort of contained one) and was really quite awful to live in.  I was spending more and more time with Marc in Moncton, and also more time on the road with my work.  Eventually, it became clear that something had to change, and so Marc and I decided that I would move to Moncton to live with him, which has been a great move and a source of much happiness.  We purchased a second-hand truck earlier this spring, which has proven very useful so far - I missed my old Iowa pick-up!

The Business:  Things have been very busy for the past year or so with my business.  I have had increasing amounts of work as a subcontractor for a number of clients and am enjoying keeping busy with lots of different projects.  Most of my work continues to be focused on ISO 9001 quality management, as well as HSE (health, safety and environment) program development and implementation.  I have also done quite a bit of instructional design work.  I still have a hand in the intellectual property world and wrote a full patent application earlier this year - the first one since leaving my former job in Iowa.  It was good to use those skills again.  I continue to seek new opportunities and clients but I am fairly busy already so I can't take on much in the way of new work at the moment.

The Critters:  Obviously, with the move to Moncton and the regular work travel, it became clear that I had to do something with the critters for a time.  I managed to find a wonderful home for the angora rabbits at Feathers and Fiber Microfarm in Bridgewater, NS.  They show angora rabbits and are well versed in angora rabbit care.  The sheep and goats were a bit more difficult to part with, but I managed to find excellent long-term boarding situations for them.  This allows Marc and I to proceed with our plan of working on the farm with the plan of selling it, and then finding our own place which will be a smaller farm with a fence in place where I can re-unite the gang of five.  I still have the chickens and they are kept in the big barn where I visit them regularly to refill the large feeders and waterers.  They are doing fine with minimal intervention in their feathered lives, and are producing lots of eggs for me.  Twilight, my ewe, had a lamb this spring, as a result of a tryst with a Blue-faced Leicester ram on her boarding farm.  I can't wait to meet the lamb, Wika! Caramel is also pregnant and due in July.  I really miss Lucky Nickel and Fezzik but they are in good hands and I hope to visit them soon as well.  So for now, I just have Jet and Izzy with me at Marc's.  As you can see, Jet feels right at home.

The Man:  All is well with Marc and we are enjoying our life together.  This June marks our first year together and what a wonderful ride it has been.  Marc starts a new job on Monday as Parts Manager of the local VW dealership.  I am very pleased and excited for him - his former workplace was neither a positive environment nor a rewarding one.  This will be a great new challenge for him, and an opportunity for growth in his career.  Our dogs have come to be more tolerant of each other....and our cats not so much.  We went for our first motorcycle ride of 2014 this week - a tour along the Bay of Fundy coastline.  The scenery was stunning despite the cold winds, and we really enjoyed the time out.  I continue to feel incredibly blessed to have found Marc, and to be loved by him each and every day.  Here we are way back in February on Valentines Day making silly heart shapes with our hands and having a good laugh about it.

The Hobbies:  As a result of the increased pace of work, increased travel time and the enjoyment of time spent with Marc, I haven't had much time for spinning, sewing, or other crafty pursuits.  I did recently finish a bouclé mohair shawl which took me months to complete, simply because the only time I ever worked on it was when Marc and I went to estate auctions.  It was simple, mindless knitting that I could do while listening to the auctioneer and keeping an eye out for items of interest.  I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  I also did a little bit of spinning just this past week, and am pleased with the thick-and-thin yarn skeins I completed.

So there you have it, that's a little bit of life, lately.  I really should try to post more often, but sometimes the muse isn't there, and my attention is often being pulled in too many other directions.  Rest assured, I'm still carrying on!


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