12 Grain Bagel How-To

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Again, necessity is the mother of invention.  I was happily munching away on Costco’s Whole Wheat Bagels when a month ago, they decided to stop selling them. Perhaps I was the only one buying them, but it still irked me that they yanked them from the shelves.

So… I decided to look around the fabulous interweb for either a whole wheat or better yet, a 12 grain recipe and surprisingly there is quite a few available.  I spent one morning a couple weeks ago reading through the top 5 or 6 on the google search, some more detailed than others, some using ingredients that I thought was odd, one even using some sort of sourdough starter that you needed to prep the day before.  I wasn’t willing to spend that much energy on making bagels, one that could be done within a 3 hour time frame would be perfect.

I settled on one from here: http://bonappetitnb.blogspot.com/2012/06/homemade-12-grain-bagels.html but when I made the dough as written, it was crumbly and dry.  There wasn’t near enough moisture to accommodate 4 cups of flour.  I ended up adding some warm water at the end just to get the dough to come together and while the bagels turned out ok, they needed something else.  They were a tad bland overall.

20190416_134337So today I am making a 2nd batch and decided to swap the 1 tbsp of sugar out for 2 tbsp of honey (I know, it may seem like a lot, especially with honey being a lot sweeter than sugar, but I am looking for that honey-whole-wheat taste that I think this will provide) and  I am also bumping up the liquid, 1 cup of milk just didn’t do last time. This time I upped it to a cup and half as well as bumping the butter from a 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup.

The end result? Fabulous! They have texture, are chewy like a bagel is supposed to be (not airy and fluffy like a loaf of white bread) and the taste from the honey and 12 grain flour is enough to satisfy the taste buds.

20190417_060052These really are quite easy to put together, I always viewed bagels as a long, drawn out process akin to the Ukrainian Easter Paska Bread I make and didn’t want to work that hard for a bunch of bagels, but these turned out not as much of a time suck as I thought.

For those wishing to give this a go, below is the recipe, enjoy!

Deborah

12 Grain Bagel Recipe

Ingredients

1 1/2 Cups scalded milk
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 Cup butter (unsalted)
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp instant yeast
3 Cups All-Purpose flour
1 Cup 12 Grain flour

Directions

In a 2 cup measuring cup, scald the milk in the microwave for 2 minutes on high. Remove and add the butter and let it sit to come to room temp (about 20 – 25 minutes). The butter will melt into the milk. Add the honey and whisk to combine.

Place the milk/honey/butter mixture into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast overtop. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in the egg after the yeast has bloomed.

Meanwhile, while yeast is blooming, combine the flours and salt in another bowl and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together until the dough forms a ball. It will be a tad sticky at this point. On a floured surface, knead the dough (add small amounts of flour a bit at a time) until it is no longer sticky.

20190416_110832Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and place in a warm oven (I turn the oven element on until it just starts to glow, then I turn it off) to proof for an hour.

20190416_122102After proofing, remove dough from bowl onto a floured surface and add just a tich more flour to counteract the oil.  Shape the dough into a long log and cut into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a thin log, then shape into a circle and pinch the ends together (use a bit of water if necessary to get it to stay together). Place bagels on a sheet pan lined with parchment and let proof for another 45 minutes to an hour.

20190416_12263520190416_12271720190416_12292720190416_125647Meanwhile, get a large pot of water on a near boiling simmer, just until little bubbles start to form at the bottom of the pot.

When bagels are proofed, add 2 tsp of Baking Soda to the pot of water and place bagels into the pot a few at a time, don’t crowd them as they will begin to puff up quickly.

Cook bagels for one minute on one side, then flip and cook another 2 minutes. Gently remove bagels back to the sheet pan. Careful, if handled too roughly they do tend to deflate.  Also, try and work quickly as time deflates them as well..ask me how I know.

If you want a nice sheen on the bagels, brush a little beaten egg white on the surface of each one before baking. (note – if you want to add decorations, this would be the time to sprinkle on sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc. after brushing with egg white)

Bake bagels in a pre-heated 400°F oven for 15 to 25 minutes depending on their size, until they are a golden brown.

Remove from the sheet pan as soon as they come out of the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Then enjoy with your favourite jam, lox and cream cheese or peanut butter!

 

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Keto Low Carb Tortillas

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Late last year I dabbled in eating in the Ketogenic (Keto) lifestyle.  I achieved both good and bad results over the course of about 4 weeks. I didn’t go hog wild and go total Keto, but enough to make a difference in my weight.  After dropping 7 lbs very quickly (the good), I also sent my cholesterol levels skyrocketing (the bad) and had a shocked family physician who wondered what the heck I did to send my total cholesterol up by 2 points into the danger zone.  The backstory here is that I have a family history of heart disease and I have always had borderline-high cholesterol which I struggle with in keeping it at the mid-range level.  My main culprits are eggs and cheese, which I ADORE, but alas, they are an enemy to my cardiovascular system.

So, after surprising the heck out of my doctor, I pulled back on the Keto foods (it was approaching Xmas and tropical holidays anyway) and went back to my daily oatmeal and severely limiting my cheese and banishing the eggs. Tough to do, but in the interest of my health, it was what I had to do.

Fast forward to this week, back from sunny south holidays and other obligations and I can get back to concentrating on getting myself healthier.  I already exercise daily, but I would prefer to have my diet help burn fat instead of spending over an hour in the gym each day. So I have spent considerable time cruising websites, blogs and listening to podcasts on Keto including looking over hundreds of recipes that are available at the click of a mouse.

Most Keto recipes are egg and cheese heavy, my apparent nemesis, so trying to figure out what else I could eat that wouldn’t send my cholesterol numbers through the roof again was going to be tough.  I came across a website featuring oodles of recipes (www.lowcarbyum.com) featuring low-carb options and some egg free options as well, but what really caught my eye was a recipe for Almond Flour Tortillas that were egg free and I just had to try them (helloo… the Mexican food goddess here remember?).

Now her recipe calls for whole psyllium husks to be ground up as this is the binder agent to replace eggs.  Not wanting to go out and get a whole whack of different ingredients, I already had an egg replacement in the fridge in the form of ground flax seed.  I use it daily in my oatmeal and have been known to add it to baked goods as well to boost the nutrition.  Ground flax becomes a binding agent when mixed with boiling water.  So that is what I ended up doing, as well as adjusting the total water amount called for to get a nice pliable dough.

Now that all this backstory stuff is done, let’s get on with the recipe!

20190207_113510Low-Carb Almond Flour Tortillas

Ingredients

1/4 Cup ground flax seed
6 Tbsp hot (boiling) water
1 Cup almond flour (I used ground almonds with the outer skins)
2 Tbsp coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp avocado oil
2 Tbsp hot water (or more to achieve desired consistency)

Directions

- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ground flax with the 6 Tbsp of boiling water; mix well and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients except the extra water and stir to combine. If dough seems dry, add extra hot water by the spoonful, mixing after each one until you get a nice, soft, flexible dough.
- Heat an electric griddle to 350F or heat a frying pan over med-high heat
- Divide dough into 6 pieces and roll into a ball in your hands, using a tortilla press*, press the tortilla as thin as possible. * If you do not have a tortilla press, use a glass pie plate and press the dough between 2 pieces of plastic wrap.

20190207_08515420190207_085319 20190207_085235- Place tortillas on griddle/frying pan and cook until browned on one side, flip and cook on the other side until browned, anywhere from 4-5 minutes per side.

20190207_085955- ** IMPORTANT ** Remove from heat and wrap in a tea towel, then place in a ziploc bag and place in the fridge for 24 hours. If you try to use them right away, they will crumble, but placing them in the fridge to rest ensures they will be nice and pliable the next day so make sure to make these the day before you need them.

These turned out really good. Not at all like cardboard although I do need to try and press them thinner as these puffed up a bit while on the griddle. Next batch I will add some seasonings to the dough…shall I go spicy? or savoury? Either way they will be good!

Makes 6 x 4″ tortillas (if you want larger tortillas, divide dough into 4 balls)

Nutrition per tortilla:
Total Calories: 22.7
Total Cholesterol: 0 grams
Fiber: .53 grams
Sugar: .29 grams
Carbs: 1.44 grams
Fat: 1.51 grams
Sodium: 18 mg
Protein: .96 grams

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Rhinebeck Adventures

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It’s been a couple months since my last post, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doin’ nuthin’! Just busy in all aspects of life but this morning I made myself sit down and finally write out this post from my adventures in  NY State back in late October to the New York Sheep & Wool Festival, fondly nicknamed “Rhinebeck” after the town it is held in.

I didn’t go alone, but went with my trusty weaving/fibery sidekick Kathy, Northern Homestead neighbour and all around great gal to get in trouble with.

She drove to my southern home after flying in from Seattle, WA where she had taken a week long weaving course, since her southern home is another hour and half beyond mine from the airport, I said you may as well crash at my place and we’ll head out in the morning. After a short night of sleep, we got up, loaded her SUV with our luggage and we were off.  A short 45 minutes to the U.S. border and we were on our way to Rhinebeck, NY

The way down was an uneventful trip, about 6.5 hours from the border until we arrived in Poughkeepsie, NY where our hotel was booked.  Hubby has boatloads of hotel points from his years of working out of town so this trip was arranged utilizing hotel points, thus saving us more money to be spent on fiber goodies!  After arriving at the hotel, we dumped our luggage and headed out to explore the nearest bookstore (Kathy is a book fanatic) as well stop in at the local JoAnns for fabric I had pre-ordered to be delivered to that location.

Once our initial shopping was done, we hit the Texas Roadhouse for dinner, one of my favourite restaurants due to their buttery pillows of yumminess that they drop on everyone’s table.

20181019_153404with whipped cinnamon butter! I could feel the lbs gaining momentum ready to leap onto my hips with every bite.

After supper we headed back to the hotel after stopping to pick up adult bevereges for the room (beer of course!).  The next morning we were up early, showered and after downing the free breakfast offerings in the hotel lobby, we were on our way to the little town of Rhinebeck and NY States largest fleece and fiber festival.

20181020_095841The fairgrounds in Rhinebeck are set against a lovely backdrop of rolling hills adorned with the colours of fall. It was a gorgeous day with sunshine and a bright blue sky with mild temperatures.  After paying our admission, we looked at the map of the fairgrounds to scope out what to see first.  There were literally hundreds of vendors in many, many buildings sprinkled throughout the fairgrounds. It was going to be a fun day of yarn fondling and sheep ogling!

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20181020_104857 20181020_144249 20181020_145855 20181020_161727 20181020_150837 20181020_14592220181020_12175720181020_121854 20181020_121710After a very looong day of wandering around and well past the 5 p.m. closing time of the festival, we made our way back out to the car with our ‘loot’ and headed back to the hotel…where our adventures were about to take a turn.

We arrived to see several plumbing company vehicles backed up to the exterior door at one end of the hotel with a generator running….uh oh…not a good sign.  We head up to our room to drop off our booty….

20181020_184019and then down to the front desk to see what the commotion was about.  No water. The entire hotel had no water due to a watermain break under the floor of the east wing of the hotel.  We were on the 2nd floor and immediately above where the workers were jackhammering up the floor of the room below us.

Lovely. Just lovely…..

The hotel had no idea when water would be restored and they were handing out bottled water to all guests…um…wouldn’t you just need to use the facilities after drinking bottled water and the facilities didn’t work? Well, we were not going to hang around and find out.

I emailed hubby to have him look for another hotel that we could  move to and after a few minutes, he came back with one room left in a hotel just outside Albany, which was a good hour north of Poughkeepsie.  With the festival in town, every hotel within a 50 mile radius of Rhinebeck was full, so we packed up, checked out of the drought-ridden hotel and headed up to Albany, which meant we would not be able to head back to Rhinebeck for the 2nd day of the festival (insert sad face).

By the time we pulled out of the hotel lot, it was dark, which meant the drive up to Albany wasn’t going to be much fun in the deer infested state of New York. For those that have never been to NY State, it is one of the most heavily populated states in the north-east for deer, and sure enough, I lost count of how many were browsing at the side of the interstate, their eyes glowing in our headlights as we passed them.

We safely arrived at the hotel and proceeded to check in to the last remaining room of the hotel, a spacious room with an even bigger bathroom but with one hitch, there was only one king sized bed. Oh well, good thing Kathy and I are good friends! Since we didn’t really get any supper, we wolfed down the leftovers from the night before at Texas Roadhouse, which included these rattlesnake bites that were amazing the second time around.

20181019_160424After slugging down a couple cold beers with cold leftovers, we hit the sack to make the trek back home the next morning.  Since we were already 1 hours drive from Rhinebeck, it made no sense to drive back down for the day and then turn around and head back, plus, we only had the room for one night and it wasn’t available the next night.

Sunday morning dawned and after showering and packing up, we hit the Starbucks across the road for coffee and tea and headed west.  About 2 hours into the drive, I began to notice an unusual hum somewhere in the drive train of Kathy’s SUV.  We stopped at an Interstate gas station to fill up and use the facilities and when pulling into a parking space, her car “clunked” when she put it in park. We both looked at each other and thought the same thing….uh oh, what the hell was that?!

After using the loo, we got back in the car and drove around to the other side to fill up, the car behaved when put into park so we thought maybe it wasn’t engaged into park fully the last time….so onward!

After another couple hours, we stopped again to use the loo (what goes in, must go out!) and as we coasted into the parking lot, her car suddenly went out of gear. She coasted into a parking space and shifted into park. Well, not only did the car CLUNK loudly like last time, it lurched a good foot and a half forward!

Much swearing ensued….

After using the facilities again, we came back out to the car and after starting it up, it would not go into gear, any gear. Not forward, not backward, nothing. More swearing….

Next to the service station was a satellite State Trooper building so we walked over to ask for some help but the station isn’t manned as it just for troopers to park their civilian cars and take their cruisers out on the interstate. So we walked back to pretty much deceased vehicle and while Kathy was looking up a non-emergency police telephone number, I was emailing hubby to tell him of our latest demise. We were still a good 3 hours from home, just outside the lovely hamlet of Geneva, NY, so hubby jumped into action to find another hotel room because clearly, her car wasn’t moving without either divine intervention or a dealership garage.

Within 20 minutes a tow truck was on site and the dead SUV and ourselves were loaded onto the tow truck…

20181021_132338Fun times!

The driver of the tow truck was also the owner/operator and a fabulous sport posing for a photo with Kathy. Since it was Sunday and pretty much all garages were closed, we headed to his compound and he graciously allowed her vehicle to stay there while we tried to sort out where we would take it the next morning. Meanwhile, hubby had found us a hotel room in Geneva and the tow truck owner’s wife was on her way to pick us up and drive us to our hotel. Totally unnecessary but seriously appreciated! We piled into her pickup with all our luggage and fiber purchases and headed to the cute town of Geneva located on the northern shore of Seneca Lake. Smack in the middle of NY wine country and highly scenic to boot.

On our way to the hotel and telling the owners wife of our adventures to date, she said you must be in need of a stiff drink, well, yes, but we didn’t have any and where would be a good place to get some for the room we asked? She said the closest grocery store is about a mile from the hotel and since we were going by it, she amazingly offered to stop there so I could run in and grab a 12 pack of cold ones. Seriously, this tow company went above and beyond for us, we could not thank them enough, if you are ever stuck in Geneva, NY area, call Hart Towing, they will not let you down.

Once at our 3rd hotel in as many days, we checked in and looked around online as to where we could go for dinner, there was a nice restaurant a stone’s throw from the hotel so we walked over for some much needed sustenance.  The name of it was The Cobblestone, a gorgeous old farmhouse turned into a restaurant.

20181021_190927The main bar reminded me of a quaint, English pub. We were herded to the dining room where we had the most delicious dinner, we both cleaned our plates as we were absolutely starving by this time.

20181021_182845 20181021_182840A glass of red wine definitely made her forget about the car trouble….

The next morning she was up early and phoning the 2 dealerships in the area to see which one could get her vehicle in for assessment and repair. A couple hours later the tow company dropped her car off at the chosen dealership and we waited for several more hours while they performed an in-depth examination.  Meanwhile, we only had the hotel room booked for one night hoping that the dealership would be able to fix her car that day (praying it was something easy!), but by 4 pm, we still hadn’t heard from them and we had to check out of our room. We were able to hang around in the lobby while we waited as the sympathetic hotel staff said to take as long as you need to figure out what to do.  Not long after Kathy got the call that the car needed a part and of course, they didn’t have one in stock and it would be couriered to the dealership the next morning. Back I went to hubby via email and he booked the room again for the night, thank goodness for hotel points!

We moved our luggage et al back into the same room we vacated an hour or so earlier and sat down in the room for a much needed adult beverage (or two or three) until we started to get hungry.  There was a restaurant in the plaza beside the hotel so we decided to walk over and check it out. It was a small, craft brewery type place called Kindred Fare and we both decided on the Chef’s Menu offering of a 3 course prix fixe….oh my yummy goodness, it had the best duck confit I have ever tasted! (shhh…don’t tell my duckie buddies up north) and the most amazing ice cream for dessert.  Normally I don’t eat desserts at restaurants but with our adventures to date, may as well splurge! If you are ever in the area for a wine tour, definitely hit this place up, you will not be disappointed.  You can view their menu here: http://kindredfare.com/

Once we were stuffed to gills, we waddled back across the parking lot to our hotel and plopped down for an evening of tv and cold bevvies.

The next morning we got up, showered, had breakfast in the hotel and then packed back up to hopefully head out once her car received whatever transplants it needed.  A couple hours later we piled into the dealership courtesy car and headed to pick up her beast….and we were finally on our way back to Canada…

20181023_122327Happy smiles all around!!

Just before we crossed the border back into the Great White north we decided to stop at the Niagara Falls outlet mall for some last minute shopping and a quick bite for dinner.  Several hours later we were finely pulling into the back parking lot of my condo building and as she eased her car into a visitor parking space…it promptly “clunked” loudly and lurched to a stop.

Seriously, we could not make this stuff up.  We decided her car was possessed and got out and unloaded my luggage and purchases and hauled everything upstairs.  I had hubby go down with her to check on the vehicle and after trying to drive around the parking lot with it coming in and out of gear, it was left for a timeout in a parking space.

She called her hubby who ended up driving the hour and a bit to our place to pick her up and take her home.  A few days later, a tow truck was sent to pick up the possessed vehicle and take it back to her hometown for burial…or cremation…or something.

1,300 kilometers and 5 days later, our Rhinebeck adventure came to a close.  Memories we will surely laugh about for many years to come!

Deborah

 

 

 

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Chunky Roasted Butternut Squash and Root Veggie Soup

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Sometimes I like to have an adult version of butternut squash soup.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the pureed version, but there are times when a chunky version fits the “chilly Fall day” without feeling like you are eating baby food.

This recipe came about like most of the ones I do…..I look in the fridge and see all the leftovers and “not-enough-ofs” and go from there. Today, October 9th, in Northern Ontario, Mother Nature decided to jack up the temperature,  just for fun I guess after a solid week of cold, blustery, rainy weather.  It ended up being 75F (24C) and very humid, but the day didn’t start out like that so at 6 am in the morning I roasted a butternut squash until soft, golden and filling the house with its delicious nutty aroma and left it to cool while I did some outdoor chores.

12 hours later and starving, I pulled out 3 leftover parsnips from the fridge, the last of the carrots I yanked from the garden today and the remaining equation to the culinary trio, some celery and onions. After dicing my way through the veggies to some very lively Spanish guitar music, soon the holy trinity et al were being sautéed to a golden brown. I then added the chunks of squash, freshly made chicken stock (thank you sweet son-in-law for leaving me with the cherished poultry carcasses last weekend), along with some just picked garden thyme and voila, after a 30 minute simmer…delicioso!!!!

For those needing structure, the recipe is below in its entirety,  but oh man, was it fabulous with toasted whole grain bread and a sprinkle of parmesan I think it is my new favourite soup!

Provecho!
Deborah

Chunky Roasted Butternut Squash & Root Veggie Soup

_DSC6637

Ingredients
1 Medium Butternut Squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes*
3 Parsnips, peeled and finely chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 large rib of Celery, diced
1/2 Red Onion, diced
2 small cloves of Garlic, mashed
5 Cups Home-Made Chicken Stock (use Veggie stock for a vegetarian option)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper & Sea Salt to taste
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme leaves
Olive Oil

Directions

* Toss cubed squash lightly with Olive Oil and Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in a 400F degree oven for about 30 minutes or until browned all over and tender inside (stir often), set aside and let cool.

In a large stock pot over medium heat, add 2 to 3 Tbsp of Olive Oil and add the onion, carrots, parsnips, celery, garlic and thyme leaves.  Cook, stirring often for about 10 to 15 minutes until veggies are soft.

Add butternut squash and mix gently.  Add stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Adjust seasonings just before serving.

Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan and toasted, crusty bread for dipping.

Makes about 6 Cups.

 

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Mushroom and Spinach White Pizza

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I am all about pizza.  Pretty much any kind put in front of me will get eaten as long as there are no anchovies present.  Surveying the fridge yesterday (day prior to grocery shopping), it looked like it was time to use up an abundance of mushrooms and garden spinach so I sat down in the early afternoon and googled “mushroom and spinach recipes” and as you can imagine, oodles came up in all different cuisines.

Since I wasn’t in the mood for Mexican (shocking, I know) and there was some ricotta cheese to be used up as well, I modified the search engine to add “ricotta”.  The results pulled up a myriad of lasagna recipes, but I also came across several recipes for pizza using those ingredients.

I scanned through 3 different pizza recipes, pulling ingredients from each and combining them into one amazing slab of yumminess.  Of which now I will share with the masses as I am all about sharing recipes, spread the flavor is my motto. Scroll down for the recipe!

Enjoy with a cold beer or a glass of white wine. Salud!

Deborah

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Ingredients

1 ready made pizza dough for one large pizza (or make from scratch my half whole wheat/half A/P flour recipe here: http://www.ournorthernhomestead.com/how-to-make-your-own-pizza-doughand-make-it-healthier-too/)
1/4 cup good quality Olive Oil
1 Cup Ricotta Cheese, drained*
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Basil leaves
1/2 tsp fresh Thyme leaves
1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
Ground Black Pepper to taste
1 1/2 Cups thinly sliced Mushrooms
1 Cup torn baby Spinach leaves
3/4 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (or Monterey Jack)
1 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese

Directions

*Drain Ricotta Cheese in a cheesecloth hung over a bowl for at least a couple hours, discard liquid

Preheat Oven to 450F and prepare a large pizza pan (or 2 small) lined with parchment paper or use a pizza stone if you have one (placing pizza stone in oven during preheat).

In a small saucepan, add Olive Oil, Basil, Thyme, Red Pepper Flakes and Granulated Garlic. Heat over medium-low heat for 5 minutes to warm through. Remove from heat and add Ricotta Cheese; mix well and set aside.

Roll pizza dough out to fit pan(s) and prick dough lightly with a fork.

Spread Olive Oil/Ricotta mixture evenly over the dough, getting close to the outer edges.

Sprinkle Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste over the mixture and top with the spinach first, followed by the mushrooms.

Top with the grated Mozz or Monterey Jack Cheese and Parmesan.

Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 15 to 20 minutes depending on the size and thickness of your dough until the pizza is golden on the edges.  **Turn oven OFF and turn broiler ON and broil until cheeses on top are golden and bubbly.

Remove from oven, slice and serve!

Makes 1 Large Pizza or 2 Small Pizzas.

 

 

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Alpaca Throw Blanket ~ Take II

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3 years after I started spinning alpaca fibre for my very first alpaca blanket (Fert & Palladin Throw Blanket) that was finally woven in 2016, I am back for more punishment (?) to spin and weave a new one.

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Why you ask when I already have this gorgeous one? Well, because after its first season at the cottage, I needed to wash it to put it away for the impending close of the cottage and it partially felted in my dumb washing machine.  Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike my washing machine? Its mainly because I didn’t get to choose which one I wanted, this one came with the purchase of our condo down south.  Now most women prefer to select a washing machine that will be best suited to her needs, but this one is far from it for me.  Unfortunately it will have to do until it keels over, and it most likely will not just to spite me.

So I soaked the blanket in the bathtub with some Synthrapol (textile detergent) and then popped the blanket in the washing machine and selected the ”spin” cycle to get the water out, but, said dumb machine stops and starts its spinning every 15 seconds and with all the flopping around the blanket started to felt.

Not impressed.

At All.

So, last year I picked up a whole bunch of alpaca from a nearby ranch (where I picked up the cria fleece from Fuerig, remember the black shawl I made last year?) and have started spinning for a new blanket.  I have 3 skeins done so far.  This is a 3-ply, worsted weight (about 9 wpi) and with being a 3-ply, will take me considerable time to spin enough for the new project.  I started spinning the white alpaca fibre and after the 3 skeins were plyed, decided to dye them.

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The 2 outer skeins were dyed using dyestock derived from avocado skins that had been fermented in a 50/50 ammonia/water solution for 4 months.  Since I used natural materials for these 2 skeins, it is a slightly lengthier process to prepare the fibres for dyeing than using commercial acid dyes, but the results are worth the effort.  The end colour is a soft beige, which is hard to tell in the photo, but trust me, they are not the bright white they were before dyeing.   I just love when my minds eye is rewarded with what it sees.

The reddish skein was kettle dyed using commercial acid dyes in a rust-brown colour  with a splash of bright red.  Kettle dyeing gives the classic appearance of a tonal yarn. Again, pretty darn close to what I was going for. Since I only have white and brown alpaca, I wanted to dye some of the skeins to increase the colour palette for the blanket.  So far so good!

I just need to finish up with the overabundance of garden produce and canning activities this month so I can get back to carding and spinning…hopefully by Spring I will have enough yarn to be put on the loom!

Deborah

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Late Summer Woodland Sights

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This morning I headed out on a solitary walk to view the surrounding flora and fauna as well as enjoy one of the last warm days of summer.  The end of August had arrived and even though we have a very humid air mass at the moment that seems to be stuck overhead I could feel the beginning of a change of season.

The days are shorter as well as the shadows cast from the sun slanting farther afield.  Some of the leaves on trees and shrubs are already starting to turn colour and the late summer flowering plants were in full bloom…plants like Wild Aster & Goldenrod

Wild Aster

Goldenrod and wild aster

and a few wild Evening Primroses scattered along the roadside offering up their showy blooms for me to appreciate and admire.

Evening Primrose

As I headed down Bear Creek Road, the woodlands on either side of the road were silent except for one lively Chickadee.  2 months ago there was a cacophony of birdsong from the many different warblers, veery, sparrows et al that was at times deafening.  Today though, all was quiet in the woods with most of the summer avians already making their way south to warmer climes leaving behind the winter residents to enjoy the peaceful woodlots by themselves.

I came across a silver maple that had one of its lower branches just starting to turn colour, along with the low lying Virginal Creeper displaying a lonely branch that had turned crimson red against a still green backdrop.

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Soon the woodlands would be a brilliant display of golds, yellows, oranges and reds, along with crisp, cooler air, but for today, as I walked along enjoying the peace and quiet of my solitary stroll with the different shades and hues of green greeting my eyes, I was savouring every last moment of warmth from the waning season.

Once I got to Bear Creek at the beginning of Bear Creek Road, I turned around and headed back but not before snapping a pic of the shallow creek that runs under the road.  The summer drought had dropped its level dramatically, but with the recent rains it was starting to creep up to its normal level this time of year.

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As I headed back to the Homestead, a noise to my left caught my attention.  I strained to see into the still green woods and just barely caught a glimpse of a deer as she headed farther back into the woods out of sight.  I attempted to snap a pic of her but she was gone in an instant, leaving me to reflect on how such a large creature can seemingly vanish before my eyes like a ghost.

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 I never take the world around me for granted, there are so many things to see and enjoy in the great outdoors, in any weather, in any season and I encourage you to do the same.  Put down the phone, get outside and explore nature in all its beauty!

Deborah

 

 

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Piñata Travel Bag Project

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2 years ago I had an ambitious idea. Weave enough fabric to make a travel bag set for myself.  These bags will be for weekend trips, I certainly wouldn’t allow any baggage handler near these beauties.

But before physically starting the project I had to sit down and design on paper (following up on the computer) and do all the math calculations for how much I would need for the warp and weft.  For those not familiar with weaving, the warp is the “vertical” threads that are placed on the loom from front to back and the “weft” is what you place side to side.  Typically you use more materials (yarns) for the warp than the weft.

Anyway, back to calculations, which is made easier by Microsoft Excel.  Spreadsheets can take the screw-ups out of calculations (as long as you don’t have errors in your formulas!) and make life a lot easier. So I took my blank “Project File” where I have all my formulas entered and made a copy so I could work on the new travel bag project.

Pretty exciting looking isn’t it?

Pinata Warp and Weft Calcs copy

This is only one page of the spreadsheet, there are 2 others but I won’t make your eyes glaze over by detailing them.

After all the calculations were done, I needed to wind the lengths needed for the warp as well the ones to be dyed.  I was using commercially dyed cotton yarn for the bulk of the warp, but 3 light purple-y shades (centre wide stripe and the same shade on either side) were going to be space dyed.  Dyeing yarns are a fun way of exploring and playing with colour.  There are 2 different dye types though as one is suitable for plant based fibres (cotton, linen, etc.) and the other type is for protein fibres (wool, silk, alpaca, etc.)  I had picked up some packages of Dylon fabric dyes at JoAnn Fabrics in the U.S. (1/3rd the price than here in Canada) and arranged a dye day with my northern homestead neighbor Kathy.

We set up a couple long tables outside at her place, lined them with heavy plastic and got to work “painting” our yarns.  I neglected to get a photo at this stage, probably because I was wearing rubber gloves as well as up to my elbows in colourful dyes.  But I did get a pic of them hanging to dry inside the homestead on my vintage wall drying rack.

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BTW, this rack is perfect for drying yarns, make sure they have dripped off outside though otherwise you make a mess of your flooring.

Once the yarns were done and dried, it was time to get them ready to go on the loom.

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After I wound the commercial coloured yarns, about 4 hours of threading commenced.  Warping a loom is very, very time consuming.  From start to finish, from winding the warp to getting the loom threaded and tied onto the loom is about 8 hours, depending how wide your project is. This one is the full width of my loom (45″) so was at the top end of time needed to get done.  Once on the loom though, weaving goes fairly fast.

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I started with black for weft, then changed to purple to see how I liked the colour interaction.  I didn’t.  The twill pattern was getting lost against all colours of the warp.  So back to using black.  I wove just over 6 yards of material.  Which took me about 6 weeks, mainly because of work and other life obligations.

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Here is the roll of fabric building up on the front beam.  Ask any weaver and there is nothing as pretty as a fat roll of fabric to look at.

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Here it is pulled off the loom, what a gorgeous sight!

Once the fabric was done, it was washed, dried and put away until I could find some time to sew the travel bags, which actually took just over a year later to accomplish mainly due to life plus I wasn’t happy with any of the luggage bag patterns I had seen to date.

I also needed to weave the straps that would be the handles on the luggage. I bristled at the thought of using commercial webbing for the straps.  So I bought some matching colours of a thicker cotton yarn and warped my Inkle loom to make the straps.  I wove 3 altogether, 2 for the main luggage bag and one for the laptop carrying messenger bag.

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Here is one of the straps against the fabric, a pretty darn good match!

Fast forward to late May 2018 and I finally had gathered everything I needed for the bags; zippers, thread, D-rings for the handles, lining fabric and a really neat iron on padding material called In-R-Form (not sold in Canada, had to order from the U.S.) that makes fabric stiff, but padded as well.  Great for laptops bags.

I brought pretty much every piece of equipment and my notion organizers up to the homestead and got to work sewing.  After 3 days (on/off), the main travel duffel bag was complete and literally, after I finished the very last seam, my machine broke down.  It needed servicing so off it went to get fixed.  A week later I was back in business.  Meanwhile I finally found a great messenger bag pattern off Pinterest as well as a cute box bag style toiletry case and after another couple days…voila!  All were finished!

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I had enough material left over for a generous “bath sheet” size towel.  Being 100% cotton, it can be used as either a beach towel or a throw to cover up in.

2 years of planning, weaving and sewing has finally come to an end and I just love the results!  By the way, you should have been able to figure out why I called it my “Piñata” travel bag project ;)

Deborah

 

 

 

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Oklahoma City Fun!

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I had the opportunity to travel this past weekend to Oklahoma City for 4 days.  Hubby is working a contract job there for a month so to break up his “30 day sentence”, we made arrangements for me to fly down and spend our 38th wedding anniversary together exploring some of the fun and exciting tourist attractions that are available in this large Midwestern city

I was able to glean some information from an Internet pal Amy in Pittsburgh who has frequented OKC on numerous occasions and she gave us brilliant suggestions on places to visit as well as which restaurants to try.  She did not disappoint!

Our first stop was the Myriad Botanical Gardens located downtown, right across the street from the Devon skyscraper.

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The 17 acre gardens are gorgeous and the crown jewel is the ‘Crystal  Bridge’ which is a behemoth of a greenhouse filled with tropical plants from around the world.

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The flora on display is stunning, from teeny violets tucked into crevices to towering palm trees and everything in between.

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A gorgeous Blue Agave plant…Tequila anyone?

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Anyone who loves botanical gardens, definitely put this stop on your to see list. You will not be disappointed.  I could have posted more pictures, but then this post would turn into a novel.

After spending a couple hours strolling the grounds and tropical building (and working up a great thirst!), we went to a fabulous Mexican restaurant touted by Amy as the best Mexican food in Oklahoma City, the Iguana Mexican Grill.

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It is a tiny place, packed with friendly servers, cold beer and mouthwatering food!

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Hubs tried the fish tacos and I had the Yucatan Style Roasted Pork, which was achiote and orange roasted pork cooked in banana leaf and served with soft flour tortillas, cilantro and pickled onions.

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Devine! I chose the pinto beans and red chile rice to accompany the roast pork and was seriously stuffed at the end.  I highly recommend this restaurant if you are ever in OKC and you love Mexican food just as much as I do.

Our next tourist destination was the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. I am sure some of you have seen their flagship carving called “The end of the Trail”, a stunning sculpture soaring some 25 feet (at least!) In the air.  The scale of which is hard to depict in photographs. This sculpture signifies a native American and his horse, both weary in body and spirit at the end of their journey.  Sculpted my American artist James Earle Fraser, it is truly a treasured national sculpture.

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There were so many art galleries to meander through, featuring artists from America, Europe and Native North  Americans depicting western life from the early 1800s to the present.  All types of medium were used, whether they were cast sculptures, ink and pen on paper,  oil on canvas, watercolours, tempura and many more. I loved this first one below titled “The Flying Mare”.

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If you love western history and art, make sure you mark this museum down on your bucket list.

They also have a full sized scale of an early western frontier town complete with sheriff’s office and jail,  bank, mercantile shop, saddlery,  saloon and livery stables.  All full of original pieces of furniture,  tack, wagons and full sized replica horses saddled and ready to go.  I was expecting John Wayne to come out of the Saloon at any moment, it was such a fun way to experience a frontier town up close and personal.

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After leaving the Frontier town exhibit, we wandered for over an hour through a maze of of rooms highlighting native and western clothing, saddlery, guns, Chuck wagons,  rodeos and even a room filled with over 1300 samples of barbed wire held in vertical drawers you could pull out and examine. Seriously,  I never knew barbed wire came in so many styles!

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There were a couple of rooms devoted to the film industry of the old West as well.   Featuring actually clothing and props from Western movie stars like John Wayne, Roy Rogers, John Ford and many others.

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There was also a display of Army Cavalry clothing,  guns, horse tack and static displays of enlisted life in the 1800s.  Like the Smithsonian Museum of American History in DC, it has artifacts frozen in time for generations in the future to see and experience.

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Not to be outdone there is a massive display of saddles and tack from not just North America, but early saddles from Spain, Europe and Mexico as well as the saddles made by Native Americans.

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To see the form and function and how they evolved over a century is truly a history lesson I loved to learn.  How they made these items with the limited tools and materials they had available is awe inspiring.

With my limited time in OKC,  these were the 2 main attractions I wanted to see, but there is also the memorial to the OKC bombing of 1995 as well as the OKC Zoo and Botanical Garden which are great places of interest that I would have loved to see if I had more time.

I managed to squeeze out 2 stops at local yarn shops, which of course, I just had to make sure was on the to do list.  The first stop was Yarnatopia and Mustang Creek Alpaca Company.

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I happily contributed to the coffers of both, splurging on yarns not available back in my neck of the woods.  I also managed to fit in Hobby Lobby and a quick trip to JoAnns for sewing patterns as they are significantly cheaper in the U.S., even with the exchange rate.

All in all a fabulous albeit a short visit to spend time with hubby and see the sights Of Oklahoma City. Soon it was time to get back on the plane (not without a cold beer and an awesome grilled vegetable flatbread for dinner)

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and say adios to midwest life and head back north to Canada and my home.

Deborah

 

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Smoked Gouda, Mushroom & Spinach Pizza

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It didn’t take me long to whip up a pizza utilizing the freshly smoked gouda cheese.  I kept the pizza simple with no strong ingredients to compete with the cheese and it was absolutely delicioso!

Studio_20180430_095325Want to make your own?  Take my whole wheat pizza crust recipe here and top with a minimal amount of pizza sauce, thinly sliced red onion, tomatoes, mushrooms and baby spinach leaves.  Top with grated smoked gouda and cook in a 475F oven until the edges start to crisp, flip to broil and broil until cheese is bubbly.

Enjoy!

Deborah

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