December…

For some reasin, December always creeps up on me.  It is obvious in ever store, earlier each year and this year, Thanksgiving seemed to have been bkown off all together. 

This time of year, I am melancholy. Each night, as I lie awake, I think of my childhood in Slovakia and Austria. There, the cold air of the fall and often early snows, helped bring the Christmas mood.

Stores would decorate their windows in elegant Christmas displays and as we walked home from piano lessons, we detoured through the mains street to see them. It brought happiness to us. The first snow made us all giddy. We sat by the window in the evening, with our lights off, so we could watch the giant snowflakes illuminated by the street lights. The next morning everything would be white. A sparkly blanket of snow covered the playground between the apartment buildings. We would make out the slides and teeter-totter under their cover of snow. All the kids would be out, dressed like eskimos in our warmest winter clothes and teams would be chosen, bunkers would be built and a snow ball fight would ensue.

Once darkness came, we would get our skates and walk to the skating rink. There we skated and chased each other, playing tag. At home, mom would wait with hot tea and delicious cookies or our favorite citronen kuchen.

Later in Austria, our village was nestled

Pizza and everything else – outdoors

My shiny new outdoor pizza oven by Il Fornino, was sent to me last month. I could not wait to open it up and get it going. Not because we absolutely love pizza, but because we love cooking anything and everything outdoors.

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I am actually writing a cookbook for Il Fornino, so I am cooking and documenting everything for this project. One of the harder things was to figure out the even heating of the entire oven, not just the stone. This allows for cooking in the oven for long periods of time with retention of even heat without fire. I am trying to master the bread, because everything else I got spot on!

Besides having pizza twice a week, I have made roasts, potatoes, chicken, vegetables and dessert in the oven and let me tell you, not having to clean the kitchen is really neat! I absolutely love the fact that it is wood fired. Here in Florida, there is an abundance of wood everywhere. People give it away for free. Last year, a large live oak fell right next to our horse barn and we cut it up without knowing at the time, what we would use it for besides an occasional bonfire. Now it is ready, seasoned and cut for my project.

I celebrated my big 40 this weekend and well, we had an incredible pizza party. My older sister set up the area in an Tuscan theme, with cool Italian music and I made pizza. Everything was a hit! There is nothing better than a lovely fresh out of the oven pizza pie. The dough has 5 ingredients, its a breeze to make, even a day in advance and the toppings are what ever you like!

 

I highly recommend the Il Fornino oven. It is made of stainless steel and comes on a storage rack. It is moveable and weighs 400 lbs. No more waiting until you own your own home to build your permanent oven! You can take this one with you!

Here are some of the goodies I made in the oven. More will be available in the Il Fornino cookbook out this fall.

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Grilling chicken breast

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Grilled chicken breast with peaches and grated colby jack cheese

 

 

 

 

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A banana and berry dutch baby doing its thing!

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And of course pizza!

Happy cook outs!

Simca

Garden’s delight

There is absolutely nothing better than a vegetable which you have grown yourself. From  picking the seed packet to harvesting and eating the vegetable, the entire process is a labor and war with poor soil conditions and pesky insects and diseases and failed crops, dry soil, too much sun and all other negatives one can experience growing basically anything. But mostly its love. It is love that brings you to the garden every morning, to see the progress or overnight growth, to water each plant enough, to weed and transplant plants and to simply feast your eyes on all the colors and flowers. It is quite poetic, actually.

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While this years garden is quite young, less than two months, I have already been able to harvest a lot. The red leaf lettuce you see on the photo above,  has been cut down once already. The basil in the left corner has been pinched from the top numerous times for sauce, homemade pizza and my latest, basil papardelle pasta from scratch. Be patient, the picture and recipe is at the end of post. 🙂

The tomato plant gave us 3 large tomatoes already and has a dozen more lovely tomatoes growing, the pepper plant yielded 2 large bell peppers and has many more growing and lots of flowers. For a while, I had no idea what the plant in the left bottom corner of the bed was. It looked like a cucumber, but now I see it is a lovely green striped squash. I don’t know its name because the seed was in the soil I had delivered. Same goes for two tomato plants which sprung out of the said soil. Score for me! I have also used the green onion stalks for fajitas and chili.

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The random squash that came with the soil.

I have started a new garden as well. It is in a different spot and we rented a tiller from Ace Hardware, for $30 a day. Mike had it done in 45 minutes, and then the kids came and helped clear the 20×20 field. We created rows, added compost to the sandy soil us Floridians have been blessed with. (Total sarcasm right there!) The next day, I transplanted red cabbage and planted yellow, white and red onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli, beets, corn, potatoes and an array of squashes and pumpkins. I am watering it everyday, wishing I bought more mushroom compost. The issue with the sand is that you water it until your arm is ready to fall off, and then stick your finger in the soil and its dry! I curse a lot and keep watering. Mulching is in order!

This past week, we were not only able to eat from the garden, but provide the garden with a beautiful helper. Our first bee hive. Mike built the entire hive himself, and purchased the bees and frames from a lovely beek -bee keeper, from Altamonte Springs. The bees wasted no time, and got into their job collecting pollen from our farm and the surrounding neighbors. My neighbor called me today and said she saw them on the flowering bush by the coop. The sight and sound made her very happy. Bees do that. The sound, the busy-ness. Mike sits by them every night as he waits for the chickens to retire to their roosts. I love watching him sit there, on a cinder block and I can feel the peace it gives him. My heart swells just thinking about it.

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Bees at work.

We also have some new members on the farm. Our kitty Sonny had kittens and our rabbit-doe had her litter. Unfortunately, out of 9 only 3 are left. We had a little mishap on the farm,  a few days ago. Teatime the horse, got into our barn area, which includes the rabbit cage area. She is huge and as she was turning, she knocked over the cage with the pregnant mamma. The removable bottom fell out and mamma rabbit ran out. We believe, this caused her not only stress, but may have killed some of the kids. It is sad, as any loss is. But the remaining three are doing great and I will post pictures soon.

Our little chicks are all grown up. Well not yet, but they moved out of the brooder into the chicken coop. They are still a little shy and prefer to hang out in the coop door. I love watching them scatter in a posse of 10, from the coop to the barn and back.

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Our black Austrolorps and New Hampshire Reds chillin’ in the coop.

Now for the pasta. I have thought about making herb pasta, simply because it looks and smells so good. My pasta adjustment for the Kitchen aid mixer is perfect. When. It. Works!

As it does not, I simply proceeded with my own pasta making attachments, my hands y’all! When I was small, my mom would make noodles for her chicken noodle soup, every Sunday. All by hand, of course! I remember watching  pull out the large cutting board, create a well from flour and add eggs. Then she would whisk the egg with a fork and create a lovely ball of dough in a matter of minutes. She rolled it out, thin and even all over, cut it into thick strips and stack the strips largest to small on top of each other. Finally, she would cut thin short noodles for the soup. Dust them with flour and shake them gently with her hands. Her own mom taught her and it was my moms responsibility since she was 9 years old.

So I picked some basil and proceeded to make pasta as well.

 

Basil papardelle

3 cups AP flour

3 farm fresh eggs (I have eggs, so if you are local you may purchase form me)

3/4 cup of water (may not need all of it)

3/4 cup of freshly chopped basil (or any herb your like)

 

Dump the flour on a clean work surface and create a well. Break the eggs into the well and using a fork, whisk the eggs in with the flour to combine. This helps the eggs from running all over. Add  basil and more flour from the sides of the well and start adding a little water at a time to bring the dough together. Continue, until you have a ball of dough, which is not sticky. Start need the dough to get the gluten working. This takes about 5 minutes. Form a log and cut in 3 pieces. Wrap each piece in saran wrap and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes.

Take one dough, and start rolling out into a nice, even and thin layer. Dust with flour and turn over until it is to your desired thinness. If you are using your pasta maker, I am jealous, run it through from the thickest to the thinnest setting. If you like your pasty with a more of a bite, make it thicker. Just make sure to adjust cooking time as well. Once the pasta dough is the desired thinness, roll it from the shorter edge and then slice with a knife about 1/2 inch wide. These will expand in the water, of course. Or use your pasta maker adjustment for different pasta styles. This is perfect for any pasta you want to make. I don’t want to go all Bubba Gump on you here. (Forrest Gump reference LOL)

Separate the pasta and dust with flour to prevent sticking. You can cook the pasta right away, or freeze it, dry it, refrigerate it. I made an incredible pasta dish with it.

To those who just want to skip the process and get down to eating it, I sell these to order as well and can make the pasta plain or use various herbs. Just let me know.

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Basil Papardelle with sauteed turnip greens, kale, bok choy, garlic and a super light tomato sauce. All made from scratch, duh!

Next post will be about my new and amazing new toy, and outdoor pizza oven! Ok its not just a toy, I am writing a cook book for the manufacturer, so it is work. Hey, if all work included awesome pizza and everything else I can make in this lovely pizza oven, then I am ok with it.

Random picture of the day:

Peanut butter cookies. Yah, I wish I had some right now. And the pasta. No. I want pizza.

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Because cookies!

 

Till next time!

Simca

For orders on eggs, pasta and home-made bread please contact me at 407 718 0204.

The pasta and bread requires a 2 day notice.

 

 

Spring on the Farm

Spring is here! I know, we live in Florida, so it’s always nice here, but nevertheless!

We have baby chicks. As I have mentioned in my last post, I purchased five New Hampshire reds and five Black Austrolorps. They are doing great and Mike built them a neat tractor. Since we have been handling them from the beginning, they are nice and tame and when I reach into the coop, they gather around my hand and gently peck it to investigate.

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Mike also purchased 15 fertile eggs from a breeder. These are Golden Lace Wyandottes. We had them in our incubator and last week 7 of them hatched. The rest was not fertile. That is a 50% hatch rate, which turned out to be quite costly. We paid $40.00 for the eggs.  Not sure if I want to try this again. The 7 chicks are doing great. They are a week old now and we will be moving them to a bigger brooder.

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Last week, we also bred our Miss Fatty Pants rabbit. It was our bucks first time and well at first he seemed to have the correct ends confused. I won’t lie. Mike and were laughing, hard! But the buck got it right, fell over on his side twice and that is what we wanted. Mike put them together again, but the female refused to let him get close. Let’s hope it worked!

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The orange trees are in bloom and the lovely scent carries into all corners of the farm. Mike keeps adding on to his to do list every day. He is building bee hives and at the same time, finishing his forge, building farm tables for sale, fixing fences and animal cages, working full time. He wonders why he can’t keep his eyes open once he sits down at 9pm.

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My garden is looking lovely. Each morning I keep checking on its progress and each evening add more vegetables to the long list I am already growing. It’s a bit of a trial and error still, since it is our first gardening season here on our farm. My nemesis – cucumbers, have given me a spring headache for the  last 5 years. I realized that the best time to plant these, is in winter. Florida winter, to be more precise. I have added flowers this time too. I have roses, a tiny hydrangea, waiting on delphiniums to come out, baby’s breath and a bunch of wildflowers scattered all over the property. My herbs are coming in nicely, and the sunflower seeds I planted from my sister’s stash, are growing like weeds.

 

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What are you planting on your patio, porch or window sill this spring?

Next up: Outdoor cooking. You will be amazed!

 

Simca and family

 

The Sun Kissed My Soul Today…

This past weekend was, by far, the best one in a long time! I woke up earlier than my usual 6:30. I know, I should learn how to sleep in, but how could anyone with such beautiful weather we have been having?!

My morning coffee tasted extra delicious, but I will be checking into this How to Roast Coffee, by the Elliot Homestead, for a much better cup. I love this family’s blog and journey! Back to what I was saying. So, I opened my awesome planner, thank you little sis for this Christmas present, and jotted down what I plan on achieving this weekend.

Here is the “you better get this done” list

  1. Work in the garden
  2. Fence off the said garden
  3. Plant more seedlings for the garden
  4. Get feed
  5. Take out meat for dinner- Alex is cooking! YAY!!!
  6. Fix the fence the dogs are using to escaped into the middle pasture and chase the darn chickens and make me get up from having my coffee, gosh darn it #*&^
  7. Put out the solar lights I bough a gazillion days ago, because I can never find the darn gate opening thingy when I get home at night!

Yup that is the list and I am sticking to it! Nothing more nothings less.

Oh, look they have chicks in my favorite farm store, Farm and Pet Outlet. Let me tell you, I almost tripped over my dang feet, running to the display. Of course they are cute, yes I should get more. “I will take 10. Five of each of the Black Austrolops and New Hampshire reds!” Who said that? Yup! Me.

Is it on the list? Nope. Is everything which pertains to getting the chicks situated on the list? Nope. Whatever!!!

So I get home and realize, we have not had chicks since last September, and there were 17 off them. Now only 10, they will be cold. Its cold in the house! I should get more! “Shut up, shut up!!!” Who said that??

Anyway, I have one of those plastic 3 drawer thingies in my closet. Out went everything, I removed the top lid covering the top drawer, then I removed the top drawer, placed the chicks in an older bird cage and placed the birdcage into the  second drawer of the thingy. I took my sons reptile infrared lamp and placed it on top of the cage.

“Mom, you better not roast them under that thing, I will not eat them!!!”Ok, that was my 11 year old.

I realized that this set up will simply not work!. Our three crazy dogs could easily knock it over. I needed a better set up, fast. But, first I needed to give the chicks water and feed. “What?” That was not on the list. I did not buy the feed for the chicks! How can I forget the chick food???

Back to the farm store, tripped over my feet again, lingered with the chicks like a crazy chicken lady, than ran to look at aquariums, grabbed one and off to the feed isle.”Ooohhh, organic feed is on sale…” Someone get a cow prong and aim it at my butt, PLEASE.

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Chicks like to watch me brush my teeth

Finally, I got home, it was 11 am and the only things on the list which were checked off, were fixing the fence and getting the feed. I transferred the chicks and out I went to the garden. Haley’s (our sons girlfriend) brother A.J. and our daughter’s best friend Maya came to visit for the weekend, so all the kids where outside, roaming the property, playing lacrosse, hide and seek, climbing every tree… Watching them play was amazing, it made my day!

 

They helped me in the garden, we planted corn, potatoes, Boston and red lettuce, basil, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, wild flowers, cucumbers and squash.

Alex, as promised, made a delicious dinner of buffalo chicken meatloaf with roasted broccoli mac n’ cheese, Haley made a batch of incredible chocolate muffins.

On Sunday we were hoping to get a female rabbit, so Mike was readying the rabbit cages, feeding the animals and working on something in the barn. He always works on something, and then he comes to show me or tell me to come and look. I do, and amazingly, he makes a table, or he cleaned the barn or he is building a saw mill or forge. I don’t get where he gets the energy! Honestly, the man is always on the go, producing something! I luff him. 🙂

After dinner, I walked over and collected eggs from our coop. Aren’t they lovely? Nice and clean, no poop! I treated our girls to a handful (or 5) of organic wheat berries and went back to the house to make coffee.

Fresh eggs

The days are getting longer and light lingers on for a few minutes each day. I love Spring. It renews my energy, inspires me to do more, plant more and buy more chicks. Hey!

I wonder when the Ameraucanas will be in. I need five, at least!

Somebody, stop. me. please!

 

Buffalo Chicken meatloaf

Alex’s Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf

We grind our own chicken and for this recipe Alex used 1lb chicken breast and 1lb of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

  • 2lbs ground chicken
  • 2 dry bread rolls
  •  bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp buffalo sauce
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1tsp onion powder
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

For the top:

  • 1/2 ketchup
  • 1 tbsp buffalo sauce
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese, without the wood pulp please! HAHA

 

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix all wet ingredients and set aside. Place dried rolls in water to soak and set aside. Place the ground chicken in a large bowl and add all seasonings. Next, take the wet rolls, squeeze all the water out and sprinkle on the meat. Add the wet ingredients and mix with your hands until fully combined. Add the blue cheese and breadcrumbs as needed. The meat mixture needs to be soft, but not runny. If too soft, add breadcrumbs. They absorb the moisture and flavor and redistribute it during cooking. Put the meat mixture in a greased loaf pan or form a loaf in a 9×13 pan. Mix the ketchup and buffalo sauce and smother the meatloaf with it. Next, mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle it all over the meat loaf.

Place in oven, bake until the internal temperature is 165 (50-55 minutes). For a crispier top, bake 10 minutes longer.

Enjoy with the side of your choice or make roasted broccoli mac n’ cheese.

Here is to all weekends, being as perfect or close to perfect, as this one.

Simca

Ah, the Daily Bread!

My husband and I are both from Slovakia and one of the staples in our home, now and as we were growing up, is freshly baked crusty bread. There is nothing better than cutting into a warm loaf of bread. The crust crackles as I cut into it and its nutty aroma fills my home. I bake bread. My kids love it in the most simple way. They slather some grass fed butter on it and keep coming back for more. Right now, I can only make two loaves at a time. This means, I have to bake it at least twice a week.

There are plenty of recipes and videos out there for a no kneed bread, 1-hour bread and such, and these are fine… but. A real crusty bread, with nooks and crannies, my kids call eyes, takes a little time. For our bread, I use my stand mixer by kitchen aid, but I have and have no problem making the dough by hand from start to finish. In our bakery in Slovakia, my husband made dough by hand, because our expensive mixer broke and well, customer service is still not the biggest priority there. He made it from twenty pounds of flour at a time! Another thing I noticed with the 1-hour breads, is that it simply does not have the time to rise enough. This can produce a heavy bread which is much harder to digest. Longer rising or proving of bread not only creates a lighter loaf, but the fermentation which takes place, gives the bread its nooks and crannies and most importantly, a fermented bread is much easier to digest. So, give the bread its time, you will be glad you did.

Which is better cake yeast or dry yeast. Again, in Slovakia all I ever used was caked yeast. It came in convenient little cubes, perfect for up to a kilo of flour- which is 2.20lbs. I loved using cake yeast, but here in the States, it is harder to come by, so I have adjusted my bread recipe using dry active yeast and it works great. Big plus, its shelf life is awesome! Some like to use starters, which is great too. I have one in my fridge right now, I will experiment with it for a new baguette recipe I am working on.

Next up, flour. I use bread flour and wheat flour combined. This gives the bread a nice nutty flavor, which reminds me of our traditional bread in Slovakia. I also use potatoes in one of my bread recipes. It does not matter which brand you choose, as long as the flour is unbleached and unbromated.Potassium bromate is used in flour to make it whiter and helps the dough rise higher, this may be desirable for some bakeries, bakers and such, but it is a carcinogen and I simply will not use it! After all, I am trying to provide my family with a healthier bread.

Now, that we have covered the ingredients, it is time to discuss the way of baking it. Most kitchen ovens are able to go up to 5oo degrees Fahrenheit, this is plenty enough for baking bread. Initially, the oven needs to be preheated to this temperature for 40 minutes with the baking stone or dutch over inside it. The high temperature helps the dough rise and create a crust. The temperature will be then lowered to 400 degrees for the rest of the baking time.My bread always gets a sprinkle of water as I put it in the oven. Another reason why its nice and crusty all over.

Ok, here is what you need:

2-3 cotton kitchen towels- dedicated to only making bread

Stand mixer with hook attachment

A large bowl

Baking stone-pizza stone or dutch oven with lid

Pizza peel, if using baking stone

Baking paper if using baking stone

Cornmeal or Semolina Flour for dusting the baking paper

Spray bottle dedicated only to water or a pastry brush and bowl with water.

Lame or super sharp knife- for slicing the top of bread- you need to create your own design 🙂

Oven! yes you need an oven- haha

Cutting board big enough to fold the proven dough on.

Nerves of steel, no pets or children touching the oven and a glass of wine.

The recipe is very simple. This is a 6 ingredient bread! That’s it. No preservatives, colorants, additives… If you use organic flour than its even better!

Recipe:

30 oz bread flour

3.5 oz whole wheat flour

2 cups warm water

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 teaspoons salt (I use pink salt)

1 teaspoon molasses

Place the flours, yeast and salt in the mixer bowl and whisk together by hand. Using a quart size measuring cup, measure 2 cups of warm water and dissolve the teaspoon of molasses in it. Pour the mixture into the mixer bowl with the flour and mix using a hook on low to combine all of the ingredients. Once the dough is together, switch it on medium and let it mix for about a minute. What you are looking for, is a clean bowl all over, except the bottom of the bowl. If your bowl is covered with the dough, keep working it on high until the dough is all collected on the hook and on the center of the bowl. If the dough is still sticking to the bowl, add a sprinkle of flour, 1 teaspoon. The dough should be soft to touch and not glossy. If its glossy add a little flour, if its hard, add water. The measurements are exact, but you never know. 🙂

Once the dough is the right consistency, dust your hand with flour and remove the dough off of the hook and take it our of the mixer bowl. Place on cutting board or clean, flat work surface and fold the dough into a ball. Use flour to dust your hands. The dough should not be sticky, and if should be a soft pliable dough. Place the ball of dough into a large, flour dusted or lightly greased bowl, dust with more flour and cover with saran wrap or cotton kitchen towel. I have used both, but the saran wrap helps maintain the temperature better. Set in a draft free, warm place. Put a timer on for 45 minutes. Have above mentioned glass of wine, read or change diapers or as in my case, feed animals.

After 45 minutes, uncover the bowl, the dough should have proven quite nicely. Dust your hand with flour and fold the dough outward in, in a complete circle, this is also called the baker’s turn. About 8 times. Cover bowl again and put the timer on for another 45 minutes.

Repeat all of the above and set it for one more time.

Hey, I said it takes time!

After the last time, uncover the bowl, dust hands and take dough out. Place on a flour dusted work surface and gently spread the dough with your hands, outward. Fold the dough like an envelope- right side in, left side in. Turn over and cut in two. Take one piece of dough and form a round loaf. Place on board and roll with hands to create a log. Repeat with the other. Place each log into well dusted (flour) cotton towels and create forms like the pic below. Dust with flour and cover with cotton towel. Let it rest for 45 minutes. Turn oven on to 500 degrees with the baking stone or dutch oven inside.

When time is up, take a pizza peel and place a large baking sheet on it. Sprinkle with cornmeal or semolina flour. Uncover one of the loaves and roll it over onto the pizza peel, making sure to leave enough room for the other loaf. They will bake on the stone at the same time. If using dutch oven, gently roll the dough into it using the towel it has been rising on. Please be careful, the dutch oven is super hot! Do not drop the dough, on neither the pizza peel nor the dutch oven. The dough will go flat and well, that is just not pretty!

Bring the pizza peel to the oven spray with water and cut your design on top of the bread using a lame or sharp knife. Gently slide the loafs in with the baking paper and all. This saves your pizza stone and is really easy to handle both loafs.

Dutch oven- once the dough is in, spray or sprinkle with water, cut the top of the bread. Cover with dutch oven lid and place in oven. Put your timer on for 45 minutes.

After 15 minutes, lower temperature to 400 degrees.

30 minutes into baking, spray the bread again, covering all sides but the bottom.

Dutch oven- spray the bread and leave for the rest of the time uncovered.

After 45 minutes, take out one loaf, careful its hot! Flip over a tap the bottom of the bread. The sound should be hollow and it should be nice and brown. If it is not, let the bread bake for another five minutes.

Dutch oven- this is tricky, because the pot is heavy, but tip the bread out of the dutch oven to check for the hollow sound. It should look like the picture below.

Let the bread cool almost completely, on a cooking rack. Do not cool on a flat, solid surface!

Oh, and it is tradition to bless the bread as it goes into the oven. Just draw the holly cross over the bread. 🙂

Slice bread after it cools, slather with butter and enjoy!

Simca

Proving bread

Proving bread in cotton towels

Loaf of bread

Baker stone- Pizza stone bread

Dutch oven bread

Dutch oven bread