Monday, May 11, 2009

Independence Day Challenge 2009: Week 2

Plant something:

There's not much going on in this category ... there should be, but I had a rather crazy week.

Harvest something:

Dandelion greens - mostly for the bunnies. Big Little Sister has been harvesting baby lettuce leaves and comfrey for the bunnies, too, but we haven't eaten anything harvested from the yard, yet. I'm still waiting for the lettuce to get bigger. I probably need to tell BLSister to stop taking it all :).

Preserve something:

Does "my sanity" count?

Like I said, crazy week ;).

Reduce Waste:

*See below.

Preparation and Storage:

Most of my grocery bill this past week was in stocking up items. I bought a big, honkin' bag of flour and another large box of dried milk. ToolMom came over for dinner the other night, and when I opened my cabinet, she kind of chuckled. She said she loved looking at my cabinets, now, with all of the jars of beans and bags of flour and such. She said it's such a huge departure from when she first met me and would look into my cabinets with all of the brightly colored boxes of processed food.

Most of the time I do know that we've come a long way, but it is very cool to have someone else appreciate how big the change has been for us.

Build Community Food Systems:

I received a package in the mail the other day, and it brought such a smile to my face.

Thanks a bunch, Fleecenik, for sharing your Jerusalem artichokes with me!

My good friend, ToolMom, has Jerusalem artichoke growing all over her yard, and they are gorgeous flowers. She brought me a few bulbs, too. (Thanks, ToolMom! ;)

I've done quite a bit of research on them, although I've never tried eating them, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with them. I think they're the perfect permaculture addition to my homestead.

So, I had a lot of people sharing plants with me this week, but we also had the opportunity share some of our "local" food. ToolMom and her kids came over for dinner this week. We had homemade pizza and pie - both delicious! And Deus Ex Machina and I cracked open a couple of bottles of our home-brewed Hefeweizen.

I was never a huge fan of beer, in general, because most American beers are very harsh and bitter, in my opinion, but I was introduced to wheat beer when I was in Germany. Beer in Germany is an art form, and most towns have their own signature brew. My favorite type of beer is Hefeweizen, which is a heavy, darkish wheat beer, and since we've been back here in states, we've looked, but haven't been able to find anything that's even close to as good. The best we've found is crafted by Sebago Brewing Co., but it's a little too American, which is to say, it's not heavy enough or wheaty enough for my tastes. In short, I thought I would have to suffer with inferior beer, unless some quirk of fate sent back to Europe ... until now.

I could do a whole post just on how good this beer is, but I won't. I will say, however, that we all enjoyed a couple of glasses with our pizza, and it was good.

Eat the Food:

Last year there was a section for "cook something new." It's not on the list this year, but I was so proud of myself for, not only using up something that might otherwise have simply gone to the birds, but also because it was something I'd never prepared before.

I made bread pudding, but instead of using raisins, as suggested by the recipe (but which only one of my three girls likes), I used up a few more of the frozen blueberries we stored last summer.

And it was yummy!

In one of her posts last week, Phelan, at A Homesteading Neophyte talked about how food is becoming a concern for a lot of people. Reserves are being used up, and there's not a lot of money for restocking.

On the same day, there was an article on Yahoo with the headline 17 percect of US Children Under 5 May Face Hunger.

And a headline in a more local paper announced a food drive this weekend.

I've been striving - probably since starting the last IDC - to not "waste" any food, and to be clear, we don't throw food away. If we don't eat it, it goes either in the compost or to the chickens, but I've tried to go even further, in that our chickens don't get as many "leftovers" as they once did. Leftovers are incorporated into another meal ... or at least that's my goal.

And on Thursday, we had bread pudding. It was delicious, and used up all of the day-old bread ... and if I were still participating in an Eat Local Challenge, I could have listed this as my "local" meal for the week, as it used all local ingredients, too (except for the sugar and spice ... and the yeast in the homemade bread ;).

Speaking of bread, several months ago, I followed a link on another blog (I think it was Amanda's blog), and from there, I made a couple of jumps until I landed on a site where was posted a recipe for One Hour French Bread.

It claimed that the bread could be made, start to finish, in an hour (including time to proof and rise).

I was skeptical, but I needed something that I could not think about all day.

I found it. It is exactly what it says it is - simple and fast, and delicious! I can start dinner at 6:30, and we're eating before 8:00.

To make:

* Pour 1 1/2 c of hot tap water into a mixing bowl.
* Add 1 1/2 tbls of yeast, a palm of salt (probably 1 tsp, but I never measure salt), and 1 tbls of honey.
* Whisk vigorously.
* Let sit for a couple of minutes while you lightly grease a cookie sheet (I use one of my baking stones).
* Add flour, a cup at a time, until you have a soft dough that's not sticky. I use my hands to add the flour so that I can feel the dough, because like salt, when I'm making bread, I rarely measure the flour - but it's probably 3 to 4 cups. I knead the dough in the bowl, but not a lot, just enough to be sure everything is mixed and the dough isn't sticky.
* Flatten bread on cookie sheet (I use my hands, but you can use a rolling pin), and then roll, like a jelly roll, tuck the ends under, cover with a cloth, and let rise for about 15 minutes ... but not too much longer than that.
* Take a knife and make slits along the top about a 1/2" deep.
* Bake at 400° for about twenty minutes, or until bread is golden brown.

Note: this is not a bread pan bread! It should be baked on a cookie sheet or baking stone.

It's delicious. My family can't get enough of it, and I bake four or five loaves of it per week. They'd prefer I make it every day, though ;).


  1. GASP! You don't measure the flour or the salt! OMG! You bread outlaw you! Sorry, I just hate it when certain TV chefs make it sound like if you don't measure the ingredients of bread to a tee, then you're not making it right. Like people haven't been baking bread for hundreds of years before pyrex came out with fancy measuring cups.

  2. I got to say I agree with you on commercial American beer. I had some friends who brew and on the RARE occasions that I do drink beer it is theirs.

    Still envying your garden and cupboards. The garden here is going to have to wait until my body is built back up again. I discovered my back can barely handle a shovel when our dogs passed away. Chickens are going strong.

    I am going to have to start making bread again. I haven't made any since I moved.

    My mother didn't measure much either, whereas I have to measure everything precisely... a little Sheldon Cooper syndrome or something.

    Enjoy your Maine spring.

  3. i must admit that i drink american beer. i prefer fat tire when i can get it. my standard get-most-everywhere-around-here beer is boulevard. it is made less than 100 miles from here so i justify my choice based on alleged lack of carbon footprint. i worked in cologne for the better part of a year and enjoyed several beer gardens in my time. it is sad that most americans have never really had beer.

    that bread recipe sounds great. i'll have to show tabitha. we just bought 250 lbs of wheat berries. i bet if i were to motorize her grain mill this afternoon i'd be eating some by this evening..