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day to day

It has been two weeks since I’ve moved to the farm. Everyday is different, but there is a general routine that we follow.

6.30-6.45am: Wake up to all of the roosters crowing. And crowing and crowing.

7am: Head out to do the morning animal chores.

Check on and feed and water the chicks.

chicks in the brooder

Give fresh hay to the cows.

Golden, who is expecting a calf this summer.

Morning egg collection.

Feed and water our three chicken flocks.

Peep in the greenhouse.

7.45-8am: Breakfast! For me, hot oatmeal and tea.

9.30am-1pm: Morning work. Two days a week are harvest days. We could be building the new hoophouse, sowing in the greenhouse, prepping new beds, etc.

1pm-2pm: Lunchtime! Usually something with an egg on top.

2pm-5.30pm: Afternoon work. Sometimes similar to what we did in the morning. More sowing, transplanting seedlings outside, working on smaller building projects. Afternoon egg collection.

After we finish work, I might go for a run, ride my bike into town, or do some yoga.

We alternate cooking dinner each night and drink lots of hot tea as the sun goes down. At night, I’ll usually knit and listen to npr or podcasts. Everyday is different, mostly fun, and full of good work. This week, there was sun almost everyday! Spring is definitely in the air.

brand new lambs from next door

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holiday gift guide 2011!

We all know that the holidays are all about family, friends, and celebration, but the perfect gift for someone makes everything that much sweeter. Here are some items that would make anyone smile.

These awesome and cheeky terrariums from Twig are perfect for those who want some greenery, but have a black thumb. Not a necessity in life, but isn’t this what gifts are for? They are based in Brooklyn, but ship some terrariums nationally and have fun terrarium kits for you to build your own. I love the scenes that they create using model train figures!

Beautiful to look at and use, Heath Ceramics knocks it out of the park with their Plaza Line of dinnerware. When I used to live in San Francisco, I would often stop by their shop at the Ferry Building and just admire the pieces. I really this this line because they can be seamlessly mixed and matched with a lot of different dinnerware pieces that you already have. The shapes and colors really let your food pop!

Sharon Montrose takes some of the cutest and beautiful photos of animals around. I am coveting her new book Menagerie. Or, order prints of their favorite animal at her store. How can you resist these baby animals?!?

Speaking of prints, here is a fun one from one of my favorite online art site 20×200. I think we all need to retire some of the old posters that we have been holding onto since college, right? 20×200 makes it easy (and cheap!) to view and buy prints that you want. For the mechanically or photography minded friends on your list, this print, Old Camera, by Todd McLellan, definitely fits the bill.

Personally, I don’t wear a lot of jewelery, and when I do, I gravitate to more minimal pieces. Upper Metal Class makes great pieces starting at $30, like these sweet triangle earrings. I love that these go with everything and your recipient will think of you whenever they put these on.

Local honey! With the rise in urban bee keeping, almost every city has distinctive local honey now. Give them a taste from your neighborhood or theirs. Here in Seattle, we have tasty honey from the Ballard Bee Company, which keeps bees around the Ballard neighborhood, including on restaurant rooftops!

I Believe I can Fly ( flight of the frenchies). Trailer from sebastien montaz-rosset on Vimeo.

And, if you are broke like me, maybe just spending time with your best friend/boyfriend/sibling, etc. would be the best gift. May I suggest you spend it by watching this awesome and crazy documentary? These Frenchies combine basejumping and highlining for some serious adrenaline rushes. Can you imagine cartwheeling off of a cliff? I get flutters in my stomach just watching the trailer.

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cat cake

We made a cat shaped cake for a friend’s birthday a couple weekends ago. Not only was it cat shaped, it also was checkered inside! When cut, it looks pretty impressive, but really it is quite simple to do, provided that you have the proper tools. The cakes used were a simple vanilla/yellow cake and a delicious chocolate cake, with a thin layer of raspberry filling (just some thinned out jam) and vanilla buttercream. In order to cut and shape the cake easily, I recommend freezing, or at the very least heavily chilling the layers. The best results will come with the use of a stencil, easily made by a manilla folder, an x-acto, and  a straightedge, the last two items are best acquired over 6 years of architecture school.

I really liked the chocolate cake that I wound up using. The crumb was tender and moist, even after a lot of fridge time, flavorful enough to be eaten sans frosting and held up to the flipping, flopping, and shaping. Using some raspberry jam brushed onto the cake will ensure some moisture, so I highly recommend doing that, especially with all of the freezing. I wish I could have let the crumb coat set on the cake a bit longer, as a result, the final icing was a bit messy, but maybe that just added some interest to the final cat.

If anyone is interested in a “how to” tutorial about making the layers and shaping, leave a comment and I will write up a more detailed post. If you don’t want to attempt a cake cat, this chocolate cake, served with some chocolate frosting or vanilla buttercream, is sure to disappear at your next summertime gathering.

We celebrated at Delancey, the pizza joint run by Orangette and her husband. It was DELICIOUS and the staff was so awesome and accommodating that they stored the cake in the fridge, and took it out in time for it to come up to room temp. They even stuck candles in for eyes! Hooray!

(Photos from Stephanie)

Chocolate Layer Cake

adapted lightly from gourmet, via smitten kitchen

This recipe is sized for 2 10 inch round layers; I made 1 9×13 sheet and 6-7 cupcakes out of this recipe. Nothing wrong with having extra cake!

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups hot coffee

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups cocoa powder (not dutch processed)

2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 tsp fine salt

3 lrg eggs, room temp

3/4 cup canola oil

1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I used 1/2 cup of yogurt and 1 cup of soymilk, well mixed)

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300. Baking at a lower temp for longer results in flatter, more even layers. Flatter layers=less leveling. Grease and line pans with parchment and then grease again.

In a heat proof bowl, combine the unsweetened chocolate and hot coffee and let it sit until melted. Meanwhile, sift together the sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa, and salt. In another bowl, beat the eggs until they lighten in color and become a bit thicker (3-5 minutes with an electric beater) stream in the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. Then add the melted chocolate mixture. Do this slowly. Beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until the batter is just mixed.

Divide into the awaiting pans. I usually drop the filled pans onto the counter from a few inches to let any air bubbles rise to the surface and pop. Bake in the middle of the oven until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. This will differ based on your pan size and oven. Cool in pans and then flip out onto a rack, if needed, or just frost in the pan and enjoy.

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vegetable dumplings

One of the few genuinely Chinese foods that I make on a semi-regular basis is dumplings. When I am out to eat in Chinatown, I am somewhat dubious of the cooking methods of veggie dumplings and have seen them go into that same poaching water as regular meaty dumplings. An easy solution is simply to make my own. While it is somewhat of a process, you can easily make a whole tray full, freeze them, and store them in a storage bag, all while watching Glee on Netflix. This is also a good dinner solution of busy or lazy days.

The filling can change based on what you find fresh. I normally usually make sure that there is crumbled tofu or tempeh as the base and a mix of vegetables and herbs to round out the filling. my mom has also sometimes scrambled a couple of eggs, breaking them into small pieces, to increase the protein. Cooked and cut vermicelli is also a good way to bulk up the filling. This particular dumpling is filled with crumbled tofu, grated carrot, garlic chives, onion, bean sprouts, and cabbage.

I prefer to steam-pan fry my dumplings/potstickers and I suggest this method to you, too. Simply heat up lightly oil a non stick skillet, add the dumplings and a bit of water (enough to come up about 1/3 inch) and steam until the skins are cooked through and somewhat translucent. Remove the lid and boil off the remaining water and crisp up with skins on at least two sides. Serve with a dipping sauce of your choice. I grew up eating these with a delightfully tangy combination of vinegar, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil.

Vegetable Dumplings/Potstickers (Gyoza)

Filling:

1 block of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed very well and crumbled

2 carrots, grated

1/2 medium onion, minced

~2-3 cups green or napa cabbage, thinly sliced (i just used about 1/4 of a medium head)

3 green onions, sliced thinly

~2 cups mung bean sprouts, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, well minced

1 bunch of garlic chives, minced

1 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot starch

to taste:

soy sauce or tamari

sesame oil

garlic chili sauce

salt/pepper

some fun additions (if you have them on hand):

finely chopped mushrooms

finely cut and cooked vermicelli

crumbled tempeh

scrambled egg

1-2 packages of gyoza wrappers (i usually get the locally made variety marked “thick” and does not contain dough conditioners and other dubious chemicals)

 

in a large pan, saute all of the vegetables and tofu until mostly cooked through. if you are using a large amount of herbs (like garlic chives) you can throw them in at the end, right before you cut off the heat. you mostly want to remove a lot of the moisture of the vegetables, in particular the cabbage. I normally do this in batches and combine everything together at the end. mix in the cornstarch and seasonings. keep tasting as you go.

sprinkle flour on a sheet pan and prepare a small bowl of warm water. fill and crimp your dumplings like how your mom showed you. or, refer to this. to keep things simple,  normally only do one pleat per side. swipe the water along the edge of the wrapper; it acts like the “glue” that will seal up the dumpling. as you work, line the dumplings up on the prepared sheet pan and keep them covered with a kitchen towel to keep them from drying up. you can then freeze them and transfer them to a storage bag or pan fry them immediately. enjoy with a dipping sauce of your choice.

 

 

 

 

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a few things i will miss about houston…

1.  running around the outer loop, even after hundreds of miles.

2.  the scent of star jasmine on a night time bike ride home in april.

3.  the best indian  and viet food ever.

4.  spring in january.

5.  the community garden!

6.  tex. mex

7.  endless rows of live oak trees.

8.  the world’s biggest rodeo.

9.  a sunny day at discovery green.

10.  central market!

and of course, the rice school of architecture, class of 2009, 2011!

(photo c/0 jl)

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a planter

c/o gloria c.

cherry and white walnut, two succulents, gravel

order yours now!

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strawberry oat bars

somehow it is now the beginning of may, the end of architecture school(!), and the middle of strawberry season. i made these over charrette week for some studio mates in need of some quick energy but wanted something a little more wholesome. these bars reminded everyone of granola, but in a good way. i made some quick strawberry-cranberry jam-like filling for these (based on the ingredients i had on hand) but i imagine that the fruit filling can change based on the season. an all cranberry and orange version would be a welcome change from all of the usual holiday cookies. a blackberry with lime filled cookie with good vanilla ice cream could be a great ending for a july evening supper. the original version of these bars come from the ever popular Baked cookbook and were titles “raspberry breakfast bars.” not sure if these would make a the most healthy breakfast, but they do contain fruit and oatmeal, at least.

thinking about berries always reminds me of those pacific northwest summers and buying half flats of delicious mixed berries (boysenberries, marionberries, and loganberries, oh my!) from my favorite farmers market stand and eating them while sitting on the curb until my fingers are stained bright purple. while i can’t wait to move and settle in seattle, houston will always hold a place in my heart. a tribute to the city of live oaks, expansive freeways, and all the tex-mex, viet, and indian food  you could want coming soon.

ps- these would be easy to make vegan by swapping out the butter for either earth balance or coconut oil.

strawberry oat bars

adapted from the baked cookbook, via smitten kitchen with some influences from oh she glows

crust and topping:

1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose)

1 1/2 c oatmeal (old fashion rolled oats or quick oats)

1/2 c sucanant or dark brown sugar

3/4 tsp salt

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

light grating of nutmeg

1/4 c maple syrup (grade b if you can find it)

1 stick plus 2 tbsp butter, chilled and cubed

fruit filling

1 pound strawberries, hulled if fresh. i used frozen strawberries and they worked well.(i also used a handful of frozen cranberries because i was sort on strawberries)

3 tbsp to 1/4 c brown sugar, depending on sweetness of berries

1 small lemon, juiced and zested

1 tbsp of cornstarch or arrowroot starch

preheat the oven to 350. grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.

for the crust and topping:

combine flour, oatmeal, sucanant or brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. cut in the cold butter until loose crumbs form. stir in the maple syrup.* i may have also stirred in a tiny splash of milk at this stage also, but dont quite remember. if the dough looks too dry, add it. if not ignore this.

reserve about 1.5 cups of this mixture. press the rest of it into the greased pan. bake about 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

meanwhile, make the filling:

in a small saucepan, heat together the berries, zest, and sugar. cook until the berries begin to break down. stir together the cornstarch or arrowroot starch and the lemon juice and stir it into the berry mixture. bring to a boil and stir until thick. remov from heat and cool. you could also stir in a tbsp of butter here if you want a richer filling.

once the crust is baked, pour on the filling. sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture and sprinkle with some sesame seeds or crushed nuts, if desired. bake 35-40 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes until the filling is bubbly on the edges. cool and slice into bars.

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