At Arm’s Length…

Dina:

Every once in a while an old post needs to be brought out and dusted off…

Originally posted on Known By Name:

This week I’ve been listening to Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis – the dramatized audio book by Radio Family Theatre. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I’ve had a love affair with Narnia going on since 1980 – at age 16, when I was first introduced to The Chronicles of Narnia.

As I’ve mentioned before – I have been going through a – well, I guess I’d call it – difficult, season of life. I mentioned last week that I’ve been through all sorts of emotions as I’ve gone through this difficult season. The one thing that I have guarded my heart against is this:

Holding my God…

…my Lord

…My Master

…My Sovereign

…My Savior

at arms’ length.

I don’t ever want to be anywhere but nestled deep into the sweet and precious embrace He offers without reserve.

As I was listening to…

View original 526 more words

Dina’s Zucchini Bread

It occurred to me yesterday that I’ve not made zucchini bread since I got married.

You know – 20.5 years ago.

Let me revise that: I have not made “my” zucchini bread since we got married. I have a vague memory of making a rather passable batch of something resembling zucchini bread at some point in time over the past 20 years.

If we’re going to be honest – I don’t really love zucchini bread.

I mean average zucchini bread.

It’s just kinda – eh – okay.

Not – wowza! Gotta make that again!

The reason I was able to ascertain how long it was that it had been since I made zucchini bread? The formula is still written in professional production quantities. I.e., you know, about 30 pounds worth of batter per batch from back in the day when I needed it written in those kinds of quantities.

So – given the fact that my husband LOVES zucchini bread and we’re in the midst of the zucchini boom that’s going on around here, I decided it was time.

Before we go forward – I feel in the interest of full disclosure that I should admit this: I’m a lazy baker. I like putting together stuff that basically I can throw together with half a thought and half as much effort.

This is not that kind of recipe.

It’s fussy.

I.e., it has a lot of ingredients and it takes a fair bit of prep.

All that said: TOTALLY worth the time and effort.

Here you go…

Dina’s Zucchini Bread –  -click hyperlink to go to PDF of the recipe.

Ingredients
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar (packed)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Baking powder
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Nugmeg
2 cups Bread flour
1 cup Cake flour
2 1/4 cups Zucchini, shredded
1 cup Carrot, finely shredded
1 cup Bulgarian buttermilk
3 Large Eggs
3/4 cup Olive oil
1 cup Chopped nuts
1 cup Golden raisins
1 can Crushed pineapple
1 cup Angel flake coconut

Preheat oven to 370° F.

Do you know this little trick? You’ve got some flexible cutting boards around somewhere, right? Well – I measure my dry ingredients onto one of my flexible cutting boards, and then it’s a total cinch to scroll it up and transfer the ingredients into the mixing bowl.

I usually just start by throwing the sugars into the bowl of the mixer. Then I add in the remaining dry ingredients.

Here are the bread flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If, per chance, you don’t have bread flour and cake flour on hand – switch out the entire flour amount for all-purpose flour. Life will decidedly go on.

Here (in clockwise rotation) are the zucchini, drained pineapple (with the raisins soaking in the juice below), coconut, chopped pecans, buttermilk and eggs, and carrot. Not pictured is the oil.

I think worth mentioning – you just don’t want to develop the gluten too much in this batter. Over mixing will make for a really tough final product. Yuck. One sure way to help prevent over mixing is to make sure your eggs and buttermilk and well blended together. You can tell in the photo above that the eggs are simply resting in the cup. In this picture below, they’ve now been mixed in completely.  (And can I just brag on my baby hens who have just come into lay?  Get a load of that gorgeous yolk coloring in there!)

This is what the batter looks like once the dry ingredients, buttermilk/egg mixture, and oil have been added. You know – before you add in all that other fussy stuff that makes it taste so amazing.

And this is what it looks like after all the fussy stuff has been mixed in and it’s been portioned into muffin tins.

This batter is really kinda on the runny side – its job really is to hold all of the yummy fussy stuff together.

I do, typically, sprinkle the tops of muffins with raw sugar – it gives a lovely little crust on top.

And here’s the finished product, in muffin form:

And loaf form:

And after breaking into one of these…

I can guarantee that it won’t be 20 years before I make them again.

Yum….

Here kitty, kitty, kitty…

We’re pretty early risers here at our house. John is up and about by 4:00 am each morning. I’m not the morning person he is, and on work days I (with lots of help from my longsuffering husband) manage to drag myself out of bed typically between 4:30 and 5:00 am. By 5:30 am I usually have my first pot of tea brewing, most of the dishwasher unloaded, maybe a load of laundry on its way to started, and am figuring out what to take for my lunch at work.

John is typically off to catch the bus by the time it’s starting to get light nowadays, however today he had the day off because of an appointment.

He was sitting at the desk working on balancing the checkbook – I was in the bathroom starting to get serious about getting ready for work for the day – when I heard John yell, “Hey! Get out of here!”

By the time we caught up to one another he said, “A bobcat! Just off the back porch! It got one of the babies….”

We called Pepper and headed outside where, sadly, we found one of my baby (now 20 week old) Cuckoo Maran pullets, breathing her last, right where the bobcat had dropped it.

Sad!

Pepper went tearing off through the yard, following the scent, trying to find it, and John and I scouted, trying to determine if there were any other casualties.

The girls were HIGHLY agitated.

They stayed clustered in the corner of the run closest to the house. (For the better part of the day, actually.)

And when Pepper came running by they freaked out a little and went running for the coop.

Needless to say, they weren’t the only ones who were shook up.

When you raise urban chickens, you know there are predators. In our 8.5 years here we’ve seen hawks, owls, fox, coyote, raccoon, and who could forget the neighbor dogs! But bobcat? Really?

I likely might never have believed it if our friend – just down the way from us, maybe ½ a mile away – hadn’t had a similar experience with her own flock last year. All tolled, I believe she lost a dozen hens to a bobcat. Another friend, just down the street and around the corner mentioned a few months ago they’d spotted a bobcat in their yard, as well.

In the local news there have been quite a few cougar sightings, as well – not that far from where we live.

But to look up on your back porch and see a bobcat making one of your chicks its breakfast?

Crazy!

This evening when I was out in the garden bringing in ingredients for tonight’s salad, I could swear I could smell that distinctive smell that I smelled this morning when I cleaned up the remains of my little Cuckoo Maran. I looked around and thought, “It would never be out in broad daylight!”

Tonight, as we were getting the girls locked up for the night, John spotted a place in the portable fencing that was disrupted – one of the stakes had been pulled out. That’s when he saw it.

The bobcat had apparently – maybe first – maybe later –also grabbed one of my Rhode Island Reds and eaten her nearly down to the bone. It had found a nice cushy place under a big tree in the longer grasses along near the compost pile and made itself quite at home.

Wow.

Needless to say, we’re pretty hypervigilent around here right now. John has closed down the portable fencing and we will keep the girls in just the permanently fenced area of the yard for a few days at least. Now that the spinach has bolted, at least they’ll be getting some greens! That permanent fencing is 6 feet tall, so hopefully will be a deterrent. How much of a deterrent, who is to say? It had obviously been in the run at some point in time – the Rhode Island Reds just don’t get out, they’re so docile and tame and stay in the fencing!

And we’ll refrain from letting them out of the coop until it’s fully light.

And I completely intend to have Pepper have the run of the yard in the mornings before the girls go out. She takes guarding her girls seriously. (Honestly, when I tell her, “Pepper, go get the hawk!” She’ll chase that thing and run so fast, so hard, it nearly looks like she’d thinking she can take flight, too!)

So – here’s hoping that’s the end of the bobcat’s free breakfasts at our house!

Home Made Laundry Soap

About 5 years ago our aging washer (it’ll be 20 years old here before too long) got sick enough to have to call the repairman in to give her a look over.

Happily it was a fairly simple (although not inexpensive) repair.

But what shocked me most was the comment the repairman made.

He said, “You’re using too much laundry detergent.”

Now – you gotta know that I’m a bit of a cheap-o, and I’d always prided myself on using just a little bit less than recommended by the manufacturer of the laundry detergent per load. With satisfactory results, I might add. And so I was puzzled.

I replied, “How can you tell?”

He said, “Run your fingers over the inside of the drum here.” And he demonstrated.

I did.

YUCK.

“That film is built up detergent. It builds up on your clothes, too, and damages them.” He went on to explain that I could probably get away with using HALF of what the manufacturer recommended.

Something to ponder, to be sure.

A couple of years later, when doing our routine grocery shopping, I stopped and looked in horror at the outrageous increase in the cost of – yes, even the generic! – laundry detergent!

I turned to John and said, “That’s just not right!”

And so I started doing some research and experimenting.

And thinking.

Often this researching, experimenting, and thinking will include a question that I have a feeling probably originated with my Grammy years and years ago.

Said question:

“What would they have done 100 years ago?”

Okay – so some of you would say I’m kinda granola, and I make way too much stuff from scratch at home, that it’s too much bother, and not worth the time or effort. I’ll admit – I came to the same conclusion after trying out the home made dishwasher detergent I gave a whirl a couple of years ago – not worth the effort, and less than satisfactory results.

But hello?! People have been washing clothes for millennia. Without the mass-produced goo that we fork out nearly $20 for.

I’m not saying I want a wash board and a sturdy rock on the side of a stream – but I want something I can make affordably at home – that actually works!

Is that asking too much?

So – as it happens, I happened to find just the right formula, and for the past couple of years have been making my own laundry soap. With lovely results. Ridiculously cheaply.

I’ve had quite a few people ask me to show them how to make this, and for the recipe, and I keep meaning to add it to the blog – so here you go. How to make your own laundry soap.

You don’t need much to get it done.

A large container – I use the last container I had from when we bought the expensive stuff – over and over and over again. If/when it dies; I’ll use one of those gallon containers you can put water in the fridge with. You know – something like this:

Then you need a funnel. I have this little set from Kitchen Aid – it has a silicone tip on it – which works PERFECTLY for this application – you’ll see why in a minute. Seriously – if you don’t have these yet – you need them. Just in general.

Then you need Borax. It’s super old school and you may have never bought it – but you can bet your grandparents or great-grandparents had it on hand. You probably have walked past it in the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store a bazillion times and not even realized it’s there. It’s there. Buy it. It’s cheap. It’s awesome for homemade cleaning supplies! (DO NOT, however, ingest it. Got it?!)

Next, you need washing soda. This is also something you can find in your local grocery store on the laundry detergent aisle. It’s pretty cheap, too. Know what? You can make your own with stuff you already have at home. Get a glass baking dish – you know, the kind you bake brownies in – put an inch or so of baking soda in the glass dish. Preheat your oven to 400° F. Place said glass baking dish with baking soda in the oven. Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool. Voila! You know have washing soda. (BTW, this is another one of those you shouldn’t ingest. Store it in an air-tight jar.)

And, lastly – you need Dawn dish soap. The blue stuff. Yes, you can try the other stuff if you want. I’ve just found that the blue stuff (which works particularly well with cutting grease) works best. Trust me on this.

See: everything you need here:

First – put 4 Tablespoons of washing soda in the funnel.

This is where that silicone tipped funnel comes in handy. You’ll need to break up the little clumps that will inevitably be in the powders to get them into the container.

Next, add the Borax. Again – I use the funnel tip to squeeze the clumps through and into the container. Works like a charm.

Next step: I add a pot full of boiling water to the container via my handy-dandy funnel. It’s about 4 to 6 cups of water.

Then I let it sit for about 15 minutes – so that the powders melt down in the water.

Next, I add cold water until the container is nearly full. Leave about an inch of head space. Lastly – add 3 Tablespoons of the blue Dawn dish soap.

After the dish soap has been added, I put the cap on the container; shake it around a bit to mix stuff up. And then use it.

And that’s it.

Seriously.

THAT. IS. ALL.

Did I mention it was ridiculously easy?

So back to the washing machine appliance repair dude. Remember how he showed me the grody film in my washing machine?

Yeah – it’s not there anymore.

What’s more, my towels have never felt/smelled cleaner.

There are some things you need to know.

This stuff is not the thick gooey stuff you buy at the grocery store.

This stuff will be kind of a watery-type consistency. That is normal.

I use the same cup to measure the laundry soap into the washing machine with that I did with the old commercially produced laundry soap. Measure for measure.

Yes, you’re right. It doesn’t smell flowery. That kinda freaks some folks out. I like that it doesn’t – we’ve got enough allergies to deal with at our house.

All tolled – it takes maybe 15 to 20 minutes to mix this stuff up and put into use. Depending on how long you wait between the boiling water part and the cold water part.

And – you WILL feel empowered and invincible and considerably richer once you start making your own and leave the commercial stuff in the dust.

Have at it!

Experiments in Flock Management

Each year there are decisions to be made about how to manage the flock of hens.

Said decisions typically include choosing whether or not we’re adding to the flock in the Spring (or Fall); if we are adding to the flock, how many and what breeds we’ll bring in; when to bring them in; and how long they’ll stay sequestered before integrating them into the flock at large. Part of the whole decision making process is deciding which of the hens will be retired. Another part is when transitions will be made – and how. It’s important to not make too many changes or to stress the flock out – it can really affect their health.


February 21, 2014

A number of years ago it occurred to us – that while it’s fun to get a smattering of this breed and that breed (one year I think we added something like 10 different breeds) – it sure gets to be a challenge in the coming years what breed came what year. That’s when we decided that when we add to the flock, we typically add half a dozen or a dozen chicks of a particular breed at a time. It sure makes it easier to keep things straight.

This year we brought in 13 black Cuckoo Marans and 12 California Whites.

It was about 4 or 5 weeks into observing chicks that we realized we had a couple roosters.

Both roos, unfortunately, are black Cuckoo Marans. I really wanted MORE of those incredibly dark brown eggs, not less. But oh well.

As you can see in the picture above, the roos grow at a substantially faster rate than the pullets. At 8 weeks old last weekend it was becoming obvious that we were going to need to pull the roos out of the enclosure for the chicks and integrate them with the big girls.

Let’s just say they weren’t amused – and catching them was a little bit comical. But catch them I did and they were sent out to make it in the wider world.

They tried and tried to get back to their little girls, but to no avail.

Over the course of the last week we debated whether or not we’d open the baby enclosure up to allow the rest of the babies out into the rest of the flock.

The Cuckoo Marans are certainly big enough.

The California Whites – not so much.

So – we decided to separate them out – bringing the Cuckoo Marans out and leaving the California Whites in.


Before….


During


…and….


After.

It took the Cuckoo Marans a whole day to leave the inside of the coop and venture out to get food and water – they wanted their sisters!

Just in case you weren’t aware – chickens are NOT solitary creatures. They bond to one another – and they mourn when they are separated.

The goal in this flock management experiment is to let the California Whites grow a bit bigger over the next few weeks, and THEN integrate them into the rest of the flock.

The great thing about the way that we keep our babies sequestered (the separation allows them to see one another as the babies grow), means a very smooth integration to the flock at large. Without that opportunity to become visually comfortable with one another, it can spell disaster (and sometimes death) for the babies that are being integrated. That simply hasn’t been a problem for us with the method we use.

So we wait… for the California Whites to grow. And the roos to start crowing…

2014 Chicks

Yes, its that time of year again. We decided this year to go back to some tried and true breeds: a dozen California Whites and 13 Cuckoo Marans.
Aren’t they cute?
We ordered from Welp Hatchery again and once again had a very positive experience.
These babies were hatched February 17th, so well start seeing eggs from them in July.

REAL Ranch Dressing

Are you like me? Did you always just assume that it was impossible to make your own – completely from scratch – homemade ranch salad dressing?

I mean, who does that? Right?

You know – with any level of success.

Sure – we all know folks who make “their own Ranch” – but the taste? Um, yeah… Not so yummy.

Are you a Ranch snob like me?

You don’t want it watery or super milky, or overwhelmed by one spice or another? But every recipe you try comes out – well – gross.

For a while I was buying the packet of mix on the shelf – yes, it was expensive, but it beat the barfy stuff on most shelves nowadays that have that overwhelming chemical-y smell and taste. But dang – it nearly killed me to fork out $2 to $3 for that little envelope of spices to mix up the Ranch I wanted.

I mean – cause if we’re gonna be honest here – I’m a cheap-o at heart.

And a bit of a food snob, too.

I can admit it.

I want good food.

Affordably.

So sue me.

And maybe the whole Ranch conundrum wouldn’t have been such a big deal if I didn’t have this rip-roaring addiction to it going on. I was using the packet of dry mix to make salad dressing AND dip – weekly. And that added up to WAY too much pocket change.

So – me being me – I started experimenting.

Does your experimenting start here, too?

Okay – it’s true!

I have a love affair going on with the bulk foods section of a couple of my local grocery stores. What I can’t find at WinCo I can for sure find at New Season’s – gosh, I love that they’re just a stone’s throw from one another!

I can also admit there were some results on the road to yumminess that certainly deserved to be forgotten.

However, what really matters is that we have a winner, ladies and gentlemen – and it’s FABULOUS, and AFFORDABLE, and EASY to do. Well, and good for you, too.

Pepper Ranch Salad Dressing Mix (ßclick on hyperlink to download PDF of recipe)

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons Black Pepper, Finely Ground
2 Tablespoons Black Pepper, Coarsely Ground
1.5 cups Dried Parsley Flakes
1/2 cup Garlic Salt
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Granulated Garlic
3/4 cup Granulated Onion
2 Tablespoons Dill Weed
2 Tablespoons Celery Salt
  1. Add all ingredients to a Quart Sized canning jar. Shake until thoroughly mixed together. Store in airtight container.

Yield: about 4 cups of dry mix.

Ingredients
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 cup Bulgarian buttermilk
1 cup Sour Cream
1 Tablespoon Dry Pepper Ranch Dressing Mix
  1. To make dressing, combine mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream and 1 Tablespoon of mix. Whisk together until completely incorporated.
  2. Refrigerate dressing for several hours – until chilled through.

Yield: 3 cups dressing.

Notes:

To alter this to make a dip, simply omit the buttermilk.

Want a spicier dressing? Add some chipotle chili pepper powder, or add a few shakes of Tobasco sauce.

For an amazing dip? Add a cup of diced celery and a cup of diced onion and allow to sit overnight in the fridge before serving.

Here’s the blow-by-blow in photos:

A fairly decent representation of the ingredients and equipment needed.

The coarse and fine ground pepper:

The parsley goes in next:

Now the garlic salt:

Kosher salt:

Granulated garlic:

Granulated onion. Okay – if you’re paying attention to the colors here, you’ll see I actually snuck in the celery salt before the granulated onion.

And lastly – the dill weed:

As you can see – that’s a REALLY full jar. There ain’t no way you’re gonna get that to mix up by shaking this jar, so this is where I take the entire contents and dump it into a larger jar – just for mixing purposes:

Don’t be afraid to spend a little time making sure this gets good and mixed up. Also, if you find that you feel the need to throw in some dehydrated celery flakes (:ahem: – you do find the need to do that sometimes, right? I’m not the only one, right?) now would be the time.

Then, once everything is all mixed up – transfer back into your Quart sized canning jar. Voila! Even if it was overflowing and wouldn’t all fit before you mixed it up – it will once you get it all mixed up and transfer it back. Magic!

Here’s the super amazing part. It only takes 1 Tablespoon of this mix to make 3 cups of Ranch salad dressing. Here’s what you need:

You pretty much can’t convince me that any buttermilk other than the Bulgarian Buttermilk is worth using. It’s cultured, it’s thick, it’s wonderful to work with, it tastes better, and when you use it for cooking and baking – just a better result. LOVE the stuff.

I’m also snobby about the sour cream – there should be one ingredient: sour cream. Got it?

Now – if I had more eggs available right now and more time, it would be homemade mayo – but I don’t, so this is gonna have to do.

Do you have a 4 cup glass measuring cup? I use mine probably every single day. It’s a wonderful thing to have on hand – especially when you’re mixing up salad dressings and dips!

I always start by pouring the buttermilk in the cup first.

Next, add the mayo – by putting the liquid in first, you’ll know when you’ve got the right measurement, when the liquid displacement gets to the next cup measure. Cool, huh?

Then, add the sour cream. 3 cups measure total – 1 each of buttermilk, mayo, and sour cream.

Now add 1 Tablespoon of the Ranch Mix:

I use a wire whisk and start mixing.

It’ll take just a few minutes and then you’ll have a lovely, smooth, thick, wonderful Ranch salad dressing!

Ta da!

This will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two. You know – if it doesn’t get slurped up before then.

To make this into a dip – simply omit the buttermilk.

SO easy.

SO yummy.

SO worth the time.

This Quart sized canning jar worth of mix will keep for months. I make salad dressing and dip weekly – and my last batch lasted just shy of 6 months… (Oh, and I throw a little in my Taco Soup, and Potato Salad, and a few other things!)

So whatcha waiting for? Go make some ranch dressing mix – you won’t regret it!

Tomato Start Time!

If you’ve known me to any time at all you may have ascertained there are some things in life I’m fairly passionate about.

I figure that home-grown tomatoes being one of them isn’t necessarily a bad thing, right?

That’s why I maybe go a little overboard when I’m buying tomato seeds in the dead of winter. This winter was no exception…

Which can work out great for YOU – if you want some pretty fabulous heirloom, organic tomato starts to put in your own garden. ‘Cause – come on – if you’re starting tomatoes, why not go wild!

Today we pick up where we started last weekend with the CMBC Community Garden launch – and continue selling our tomato starts curbside at our place.

If you want us to save something for you to come by and pick up – text, message, or phone me, and I’ll get it set aside for you.

Here’s what I’ve got available:

Remaining Inventory

Name

Color/Type

D/I?

Days

9 Alicante Red
Cooking/Slicing
Indeterminate

70

6 Amish Paste Red
Canning
Indeterminate

81

4 Anna Russian Pink
Slicer
Indeterminate

70

1 Armenian Bi-Colored
Slicing
Indeterminate

90

6 Azoychka Yellow-Orange
Multi Use
Indeterminate

70

11 Beefsteak Red
Slicing , cooking, and/or canning
Indeterminate

85

2 Black from Tula Purple-Black
Slicing
Indeterminate

75

5 Black Prince Purple-Black
Slicing/Cooking
Indeterminate

70

4 Bloody Butcher Red
Canning
Indeterminate

55

4 Brandywine Red
Slicing
Indeterminate

90

6 Chocolate Cherry Brown
Cherry
Indeterminate

70

5 Earl of Edgecombe Yellow-Orange
Slicing
Indeterminate

73

5 Elbe Yellow-Orange
Slicing/Sauce
Indeterminate

86

7 Grandfather Ashlock Pink
Slicing
Indeterminate

85

3 Henderson’s Wins All Pink
Slicing
Indeterminate

83

1 Isis Candy Cherry Yellow-Red
Cherry
Indeterminate

67

3 Lahman Pink Pink
Slicing
Indeterminate

80

5 Manitoba Red
Slicing/Cooking
Determinate

58

2 Mrs. Maxwell’s Big Italian Dark Pink
Eating/Slicing Canning/Cooking
Indeterminate

69

12 Oregon Spring Red
Slicing
Determinate

75 to 80

10 Pantano Romanesco Red
Sauce
Indeterminate

70

4 Peacevine Cherry Red
Cherry
Indeterminate

75

10 Purple Price Purple-Black
Slicing
Indeterminate

75

6 Riesentraube Red
Grape
Indeterminate

85

4 Roughwood Golden Plum Yellow-Orange
Plum
Semi-Determinate

76

3 San Marzano Redorta Red
Paste
Indeterminate

78

5 Sweetie Red
Cherry
Indeterminate

65 to 70

Or if you’d like the details on each variety – you can download the PDF here: 2013 Tomato Inventory

Time to start planning all of the amazing things you can make with some yummy tomatoes…

What the world needs now…

Ever have one of those days when you realize at the end of it that you need to find a tangible way to say “Thanks” to people?

You know – for…

  • Their patience
  • Their kindness
  • Their longsuffering
  • Their willingness to go out of their way for you
  • Their incredible restraint at not laughing you out of the room when you do something incredibly stupid???

Yeah.

I’ve had a few of those days lately. I guess it’s probably stuff that goes with the territory of life in a new job.

My first thought of a way to say thanks was chocolate chip cookies. But that seemed so – well – predictable.

Muffins, on the other hand – chocolate chip muffins – now THOSE are what the world needs now!

My favorite ways to deal with stressful days?

Play with the baby chicks.

And, of course:

Bake.

And so I made some muffins.

Why keep the goodness to myself? Need some therapy? Pull out the muffin tins and chocolate chips. You’re gonna be glad you did.

Chocolate Chip Muffins (çClick hyperlink to open up pdf of the recipe)

Ingredients
1/2 cup Butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
3/4 cup Brown sugar
2 large Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Almond extract
2/3 cups Bulgarian buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups All-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Baking powder
1 1/2 cups Milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375° F

  1. In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.
  2. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add extracts. Beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture. Mix until just incorporated.
  4. Add 1/2 of the Bulgarian buttermilk, mixing until just incorporated. Scrape down the bowl to ensure that even mixing takes place.
  5. Add the remaining 1/2 of the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated; then add the remaining buttermilk, mixing until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape the bowl and mix briefly.
  6. Add chocolate chips, mixing until thoroughly incorporated.
  7. Fill paper-lined muffin tins until approximately 3/4ths full.
  8. Bake at 375° F for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.
  9. Allow muffins to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes in the tins before removing to a rack to cool completely.
  10. Yield: About 14 muffins.

Notes:

Optional: Add ½ cup of chopped walnuts or pecans.

Substitute milk chocolate chips for ½ semi-sweet chips and ½ white chocolate chips.

You may sprinkle the top of the batter with raw sugar before baking to give a crunchy top.

Princess Bars

Every now and then a girl needs permission to embrace the whole princess thing.

It should include a pot of tea… and Princess Bars.

Silly me – I thought everyone knew how to make them.

I guess not, judging from the blank stares that people have given me when I asked what their favorite parts of Princess Bars were.

If I had to say what my favorite part were – the sweet, crumbly, coconutty base and/or topping or the fruit filling – well – it would depend on the moment. They’re just so right, it’s pretty much impossible to choose what’s best!

Things that make these unbeatable?

  1. They’re ridiculously easy to make.
  2. You can make them up, store them in a disposable aluminum pan in the freezer, and then bake them off at a moment’s notice.
  3. They’re a fabulous way to use up the tail end of last year’s jam or jelly!
  4. They have such a lovely, light, flavoring with the combination of extracts that you truly can use ANY fruit filling – anything from pineapple, or tropical blend, to crabapple, to berry of any type, to apple pie – and end up with an absolutely delightful result.

Add to that the fact that you will be loved forevermore whenever you happen to share them – well, a win all the way around, right?!

Princess Bars

Ingredients
3/4 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 1/4 Cups Sugar, granulated
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Butter (at room temperature)
1 Large Egg, beaten
1 Large Egg yolk, beaten
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Maple flavoring
1/4 teaspoon Almond extract
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 1/4 Cups Cake Flour
2 Cups Coconut (fine, unsweetened)
2 Cups Fruit Preserves

Preheat oven to 375° F.

  1. In mixing bowl with paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, eggs, and extracts/flavoring.
  2. Mix together flour and coconut just to incorporate. Add to the creamed mixture and mix to streusel consistency. Do not over mix! Scrape the bowl several times, fluffing mixture and breaking up large clumps. Use a very light hand with this mixture!
  3. Place about half of the mixture into the bottom of a clean, unlined quarter sheet pan (13″ x 9″).
  4. Pack down into the bottom of the pan with your hands; you may use a rolling pin to compact. The dough should be solid and completely cover the bottom of the pan.
  5. Top the dough with fruit preserves. It should be fairly thick – at least 1/4 an inch thickness.
  6. With the remaining streusel mixture – make certain that it is completely broken up – no big clumps! Sprinkle on top of the fruit filling, distributing evenly. Press down very lightly.
  7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. It will be a lovely golden brown on top. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Notes:

These freeze beautifully before baking.

You can conceivably use ANY fruit preserve as the filling.