Playing With The Fancy Camera

One of these days, I’ll understand the light issues/adjustments. But otherwise, I’ve been having some fun. A few turned out pretty neat. I could literally take sunrise and sunset pictures every darn day and never get bored. Of course, I never seem to get bored or tired of taking Fargo pictures either.

Three of the many balls in the yard.

Poor attempt at fixing color issues due to incorrect light settings.

More playing with color adjustments.

Brussels Sprout Rosti with Balsamic Dijon Yogurt

I have now tried three recipes from my Molly on the Range cookbook.

And all three have been AMAZING! I made hummus, starting with dried chick peas, and the brussels sprout “latkes” I’ll be talking about here, and last night I made Cauliflower Shawarma Tacos (hummus and shawarma tacos in a later post). Holy cow  it’s been a fun food week.

The first thing to note is that the link I am sharing for the Brussels Sprout Rosti is not quite the same as what is in the book. I will tell you the differences as I go along, as I followed the recipe in the book.

I started with “shaved” Brussels Sprouts from Trader Joes, which I think may have been bigger chunks than the “finely shredded” she listed in the ingredients. Once I started putting it all together, I had the sinking feeling that there was no way I’d end up with a pancake shape.

 

In the book vs the website, she calls for 2 cloves of minced garlic and 3/4 cups of flour or chick pea flour. I used regular flour.

It was a challenge to get them into a pancake shape in the frying pan. It’s also a challenge to use my very special pan, because the burner is slanted and all of the oil runs to the lower half. I have to constantly tip it back the other way.

br sp frying

As these were cooking, and they took a long time, hubby was making the Dijon Balsamic Yogurt. In the book, she uses full fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. The recipe calls for 2 T of honey.  We agreed that next time we will use less, maybe 1 T, as it was slightly sweeter than we prefer.

dijon balsamic

 

Huge surprise when it was time to flip the sprout latkes and they held!

br sp latkes

Hubby said he was skeptical about this meal,but whoa boy, it was awesome! I might brown them a bit more next time.

br sp latke sauce

I’m actually going to make more sauce and use it as slaw dressing. I think it will be good.  Hopefully I’m right.

Another win was bringing home a jar of Everything But The Bagel mix from Trader Joes and adding it to the top of my bread before baking. WOWOWOW!!!

everything bread

Like I said, it’s been a good food week!

 

Quinoa Snack Bars…Who Knew?

I have been a quinoa fan for quite a while. I have used it as a side, cooking it with both water and with veggie broth. I have used it in chili, for additional texture since my chili is meatless. I have used it as the base for a Greek themed salad with cucumbers, feta, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, chick peas, and whatever other veggies I have available. What I never thought about using it for, was a snack bar.

We are still working on eating as little refined sugar as possible, and Sally’s Baking Addiction’s 1 Bowl Quinoa Crunch Snack Bars fit the bill. I happen to have tri-color quinoa on hand.

tri color quinoa

The recipe calls for coarsely chopped almonds…my food processor seems to favor either big chunks of nut or nut meal.

not coarsely chopped

The colors of the ingredients are fun!

quinoa snack mix

I used peanut butter, as usual, because we love it (as does Fargo, who always gets to have a tiny bit every time I open the jar).

Sally says you can use an 8 or 9 inch casserole, but I think 8 inch may be too small. I baked slightly longer than called for and I think that slightly thinner bars would be better.

quinoa baking dish

As much as I love dark chocolate, I opted out of the drizzle. Honestly, these were amazing without it. Chocolate makes everything better, so I’m sure they would be more amazing with it.

finished quinoa bars

finished quinoa bars II

Unrelated, I am starting to try and increase my visibility via twitter and instagram. Feel free to follow and share. If you have recipe suggestions, feel free to share those as well.

 

 

Butternut Risotto

One of my favorite recipes for our butternut squash is Butternut Risotto. I found this recipe years ago…so many years ago that I cut it out of a magazine page and have it taped in the recipe binder. I was happily surprised this morning to find a link to the online version which makes it easy to share with you.

I need to add a note here that the pictures did not turn out well and do not do this dish justice in how pretty it looks while cooking and when finished.

I’m sure I use way more butternut than called for because it is yummy, especially (I think) when grown in the backyard garden. Even though the picture isn’t clear, the amazing color of the squash sure is.

beautiful butternut

Although the recipe calls for chicken broth, I have always used vegetable broth. I switch back and forth between cooking this in a large saute pan and a larger pot and I haven’t noticed a difference in the finished product.

The main piece when making risotto is the constant stirring. It is not a start and simmer dish, it is a high maintenance process.

risotto

The recipe gives the option to choose either saffron or turmeric and I have always used turmeric. It certainly tastes amazing, though saffron may also taste amazing, or it may be even better. If you make this with saffron, let me know your thoughts.

Butternut with butter and parm and rice…how can it not be a favorite?

butternut risotto

For the past few years I have used vegetable broth in the 4 cup cartons, mostly from Trader Joes. In my blog and book perusals, I read about Better Than Bouillon vegetable broth.

I will be using it the next time a recipe calls for broth and I will report back on flavor.

I have no running to report on however, we have been managing to walk at least a mile almost every day (on Saturday I even walked twice! 😉 ). I don’t necessarily think my running days are over, but it is scary how easy it is to not run after not running for a while. It gets easier and easier and easier to not do it. Sigh…

February Hobby Update

When I had the brilliant idea to include a “monthly hobby update” on the blog, I certainly thought I’d have more on which to update. Sigh. I have definitely spent way more time following current events than I used to. Maybe that needs to count as a new hobby?

I am on the last of the four cross stitch projects I started before the holidays. This is the third one I completed.

If I cross list my gardening adventures category with my hobby adventures category, I can include that hubby and I spent a good bit of time planning out this year’s garden crops and choosing which varieties of seeds to order.

We ordered through our favorite seed cooperative

And the seeds have already arrived!

A new and exciting aspect to our gardening this year will be participation by a wonderful co-worker and her boyfriend. Given some of the physical challenges we’ve dealt with this year, the help will be very welcomed. In return, we will happily share what will hopefully be a lot of produce.

I am alternating between reading the bread book mentioned in a previous post:

And a book the eldest got me for the holidays:

 

There are some very yummy looking recipes in here and I’m gathering ingredients to try some.

It’s been too cold to work much more on the garage in an attempt to make space for a work bench/work shop. I am pretty sure I have a knitting project picked out, though I’ll need to recruit help getting it started. The master bathroom project we thought would be scrapped, may be back up to the top of the “to do” list as we’re starting to research supplies.

This about sums up the past month. The no sugar thing has definitely put a cramp in my baking…

 

 

To (refined) Sugar, or Not To Sugar

A few years ago, the hubby and I tried going gluten free for 10 days. It took a lot more planning and a lot more thought, but we tried it to see if it improved how we felt. I would say that we did notice some small differences, overall there was not enough of a noticeable change to continue.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the effects of sugar on our bodies. There are opinions and facts and diets and recommendations galore, if you go looking. There is a information stating that it is addictive. Our diet at home is generally very low on sugar besides fruit and what I put into baked goods. We buy very little in the way of prepared/processed foods. We are careful about reading ingredient labels when we do buy something in a box or bag. We bake our bread without sugar. We make our own unsweetened yogurt. We don’t drink much juice, zero soda, unsweetened coffee/tea, etc. etc.

We did have a habit of eating a small dish of ice cream each night, usually the Turkey Hill All Natural variety with only milk, cream, vanilla and sugar. Sometimes we went crazy and added hot fudge, or bought chocolate ice cream with peanut butter, or even Ben and Jerry’s, but usually it was the vanilla. I chose the word “habit” carefully in describing the nightly ice cream.

After chatting about it for a few days, we decided to see if eliminating what little refined sugar we had in our diet would make a difference in how we felt or in our weight. We opted not to eliminate grains, legumes, and other foods that some diets indicate, just refined sugar. We tried this for two weeks. We tried to make sure we were drinking a ton of water.

The only goody I baked was Healthy Chocolate Granola Bars, which didn’t look much like the picture, but which were delicious. I’ll be making them again.

choc date bars

Instead of ice cream, which was missed, we had a date bar, popcorn, or nothing. We walked by sugary treats in our respective work places. I we ate out, we tried to choose foods least likely to have sugar added. I’m sure we weren’t perfect, but tried to stick as close to it as we could.

After two weeks, there was no weight lost (of course, actually getting back to routine exercise might help there). I missed baking. We don’t feel any different mentally or physically. I do think we will continue to forego the nightly ice cream. I do think we will continue to be thoughtful about ingredients, to pass by sugary stuff at work, and to be conscious about moderation. But I will go back to baking. I already try to use as little sugar as possible in my baked goods, but I’m not going to worry about cutting it out completely.

Meanwhile, Fargo will continue to play with, and to destroy, his balls. This is why we can’t have nice things.

ball destruction

Who me?

who me?

 

Wood Furnace Workout

Our house is fun in that it has two furnaces. There is an oil furnace, and there is a wood/coal furnace. For the first few years, we only used the oil furnace. Then the cost of oil went so high that we decided to switch over to using wood once a long stretch of colder weather was in the forecast. When I say “we,” I really mean hubby, because he has done 99.9% of the wood furnace work.

I gained a greater appreciation a few weeks ago, when he was out of commission and I took over the wood furnace responsibilities. I have helped out here and there by loading wood mid day, and by helping with the wood pile a bit in the Fall, but that’s it. You may remember the pictures I shared a few months ago.

wood stacking art

wood piles

The first thing is, if we are using the wood furnace, it is COLD out. The (large/heavy) pieces of wood need to go from the wood shed in the pic right above, to the bottom of the outdoor stairwell.

outside stairwell

Let me tell you, it’s a workout to carry all those pieces of wood down the steps. I was moving 30 ish pieces every day and a half and most of the time, I carried one piece of wood at a time because I didn’t want to fall.

Fargo supervised and watched to make sure I was doing okay.

fargo stairwell

And he was very helpful by moving some sticks.

fargo stick time

Once the wood is (not so) neatly stacked at the bottom of the steps, it’s wasn’t over. Every 6-8 hours, I needed to bring 6-7 (big/heavy) “sticks” of wood inside, one at a time to put into the furnace.

wood furnace

Then, there is a whole process of how to open the door so that smoke doesn’t set off the alarms (still sorry girls, mom, dad and hubby about that happening at 2:30am), letting the wood burn hot, then shutting down the vents, etc.

I honestly could have just shut it down and reverted to oil, but the difference in how cozy warm the house feels with the wood furnace heat vs the oil furnace heat is really pretty amazing. The floors are even warm. Thankfully, by the time the next cold snap comes through, hubby should be able to at least help, even if he can’t do it all on his own. I’ll happily help and be grateful that I’m not doing it all on my own.

Side note: I ran outside this morning. The first time in way too long. One of my young, energetic co-worker friends was nice enough to plod along with me for 3.4. It was a good one.

 

Grinding Flour

I’ve used the grain mill attachment a few times now, adding some home ground flour in with store bought for bread baking. Last week, I made bread from flour ground completely at home. I used a combination of Hard White Wheat, Hard Red Wheat and Oats.

grains

I didn’t really have a recipe plan but ended up with about 2 cups white wheat, 1 cup red and 1 cup oat. The oat groats take a very long time to grind, much longer than the wheat. I also think the flour is a different consistency, or else it’s more airy when freshly ground and I need to use more than the recipe calls for. The dough was very wet so I added some rolled oats as well.

The next morning, when I shaped it into a ball, I had to add more flour to make it workable.

wet bread dough

It baked up nicely and, whether it was the combo of flours, or the freshly ground piece, the flavor was awesome.

well baked bread

Hubby got me a book about bread for the holidays, and in it, the author talks about baking the bread longer than you’d think in order to bring out the flavor.

bread book

I did bake it longer, but I think I’ll try even some more time for the next loaf.

As an extra for this post, our dinner the other night was super colorful and super delicious. I love using our home grown produce throughout the winter. Included below are our sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

colorful dinner