Une visite à la petite maison et une ferme (A visit to the little cottage and farm)

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I woke up this morning with the sun coming through the windows and the sound of birds chirping outside. I tried my best to close my eyes tightly, but my body insisted that is was time to get up.  It was time for me to get outside and greet my babies.

Some of my hens on the doorway to their house.

One of the reasons I haven’t posted lately is the amount of time I have been outside. I am working with my hens and the roo in stages. This past week was the first time I had let them out of the pen to free range.  My concerns were that 1. they would not stay together and 2. Would my dogs and cats harm the little babies.  The first day Geoff and I both stayed outside and were posted at opposite ends to watch them just in case we needed to gather them back together. It was a bit amusing as they were in a new environment and wanted to peck at everything.  At the end of the first day we walked/wrangled them back in their pen.  The second day we were outside but did not hover as much as the first day. This night they went back inside on their own. Now a week later I can let them out all day and the pets do not bother them. They spend a good deal of time under the fig tree and around the outskirts of my enclosed vegetable garden. They don’t stray very far.  Then about the time it gets dark, they go back into their pen and walk up to their house.

One of my Easter Egger hens and two Black Jersey Giants. The Easter Egger is supposed to lay blue or green eggs. The other two are supposed to be very large chickens getting to around 11 or 12 lbs (possibly more) The red one in the back is Opie, my only cockerel.  He is now dark red with non of the whitish fluff and he has some black feathers around his neck.

Most of the time I am outdoors either in the early morning or late afternoon as the midday is too hot. The temperatures have been around 93 F For the past few days and no rain. I have been trying to work in my garden. After my mom and I planted the seeds, we had to erect a make-do fence as my dogs thought it a very comfortable place to nap on my garden.

This is the makeshift fence and garden just after planting.

It may not be the most beautiful fencing, but really it was the greenest thing we could do. These are window screens that are no longer used on my windows. For my little gate, I used the left over lumber  and chicken wire from the chicken pen. The bonus of the window screens is that they are removable so I can enter any side of the garden, plus they can be taken down when the garden is done or when we need to till again. Plus it keeps out the cats, dogs and chickens who always want to go inside with me when I am working.

Everything seems to be doing well, even the undesirable grass between the rows. Looks like I will be weeding this afternoon.I planted everything from seeds, not ready plants, save two tomato plants and one pepper plant I have in a container.

I think I will have a lot squash and tomatoes. I have three beds of squash  and about 22 tomato plants of different varieties.  I plan to sell some if all goes as planned.

The spaghetti squash is doing really well.

This is the garden bed that goes around the back of my house. From left to right there is okra, zucchini squash, cantaloupe. And this particular picture are the 20 or so tomato plants with some pole beans on the end. I have 4 other more mature tomato plants in other gardens.

These are yellow summer squash in their own bed on the back side of my deck.

Now I am not always outside, as I mentioned before, because it gets hot in the midday. During those times I am either working on an indoor project or reading, the latter of which I have been doing a good deal lately.  A few months back, I invested in a Kindle Fire. I read a lot about it before I got it. I compared it to other devices like the IPad but frankly for the price, I had to choose Kindle. I like the size as I can fit it into my purse anywhere I go, which I could not do with the IPad. I have a lot of nice apps on it. I can access the internet, send text messages for free, listen to Pandora, use it with my Netflix and most importantly I can read books whenever I like. I have read about 10 books since receiving it and have a few that are still in process as I tend to read two books at the same time.

There are two books that I want to recommend. I am putting the books together as they are from the same author and part of a series. The author is Karen Wheeler and the two I read are Tout Sweet and Tout Soul. The books are based on her life as an ex-pat from the England and her move to and life in the town of Villiers, France. It’s a light read.

There is another book that comes between the above books called Tout Allure. I did not read that one as it was not offered in my Kindle, but it is the second in the series. Even without reading the second book, I was still able to follow the third book.  Ms. Wheeler also has a blog titled Tout Sweet. If you would like to follow the blog, follow this link http://toutsweet.net.

And while we are on the subject of France, I wanted to share a couple of  recipes which we traditionally associate with France. Now cast out of your mind the long arduous hours slaving over a stove and spending days preparing one dish with strange ingredients. The two recipes I am sharing has none of that. French cooking is not as complicated as one would have you believe. Both of these recipes can be prepared in a matter of minutes.

The first recipe I am sharing today is for a savory crepe. Crepes can be eaten at any meal and the brilliant thing about them is that it’s as easy to make crepes as it is to make pancakes or a fried egg and they can be made sweet or savory. As I am always looking out for a deal, I found some delicious Baby Bella mushrooms at Aldi for $.69. I don’t adhere too much to a particular list when I go to the grocery store so when I saw these I scooped them up and figure I would find something to do with them later.  That’s when I thought about the crepes.

Crêpes aux champignons

2 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons butter, melted

A pinch of Herbes do Provence or other seasoning of your choice (or none at all!)

1/2 tablespoon of butter to coat your pan.

Mix all of the above  together with a whisk. I whisked mine for several minutes. In the meantime, warm 1/2 Tbsp butter in a non-stick pan over med-high heat. (While I love to use cast iron, I feel the non stick pan works best for this recipe). The key to making this recipe correctly is to make sure the batter is just right. Your batter will be a thin consistency, not like that of pancake batter. Pour just enough batter into your pan to make a think layer over the bottom.

I swirl the batter around the pan and again, I cannot emphasize enough that this is meant to be thin. Leave it to cook over the medium high heat. You will notice any liquid that was in the pan will start to cook. You are not wanting to brown the crepe, so just when it has cooked no more than five minutes, gently flip your crepe to the other side. Let it cook for about 3-5 minutes.  When it is done, place the crepe on a plate. Keep following this sequence until you have used all of your batter.  The non-stick pan I used is about 10″-12″ and I got about 4 crepes.

*Pre-heat your broiler which is on the broiler setting and maximum temperature.*

MUSHROOM FILLING:

1 cup yellow onion, diced

3 tablespoons butter

1 pound baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon flour

1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk

1/4 cup Parmesan, shredded

In the same pan that I made my crepes in, I put in 1 Tbsp butter and the diced onion. I want to sweat the  onions but not brown them.  Then I add in the sliced mushrooms and the other two tablespoons of butter. At this point you can salt and pepper to taste. When the mushrooms are soft, add in 1 teaspoon of plain flour and 1/2 C. milk.  Cook until reduced by 1/2 which will create a nice mushroom sauce. Taste and adjust your salt and pepper as needed.

When the mushroom filling is done, lay out your crepes. With a slotted spoon, layer your mushroom filling down the center of each crepe, dividing it evenly among your crepes. Fold the right side in and then fold the left side in. Sprinkle the top with shredded parmesan cheese.  Reserve the mushroom sauce to the side.

 Once folded, I sprinkle the tops with the parmesan cheese and put under the broiler for about 2-3 minutes. When I bring them out of the oven I top them with the reserved mushroom sauce.

I love to find unusual and quality brand name items at discount prices, which is why I shop at Marshalls and TJ Maxx. On a recent trip to  the latter, I was meandering down the aisle when I caught sight of something on the bottom shelf. When I reached down for it, I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  It was a madeleine pan. I was thrilled as I had been wanting one to make these delicious little desserts for a while. I was awaiting a cookbook with a recipe in it, but in the meantime a friend of mine, Ava, shared her no-fail recipe.

Ava’s Madelienes

Makes 30
(I divide ingredients by 2 or 3, depending on how many I want to make … or feel like eating!)
Ingredients:
3 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

140g / 5oz caster sugar

140g / 5oz plain flour 1 tsp baking powder

140g / 5 oz unsalted butter, melted & cooled, plus extra for greasing

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees / 375 F / Gas Mark 5. Lightly grease 30 holes in two to three standard madeleine tins.

*For my (Kimberly) madeliene pan, I used a stick of butter and buttered each opening. I then dusted the pan with flour and put it into the refrigerator until I was ready to use it*
Place the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla extract and sugar in a large bowl and whisk with an electric hand mixer until very pale and thick.
Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in lightly and evenly using a metal spoon. Fold in the melted butter evenly.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins, filling to about three-quarters full. Bake in the preheated oven for approx 8-10 minutes, until risen and golden.
Remove the cakes carefully from the tins and cool on a wire rack. They are best served the day they are made.
Enjoy!  

Ava has created a beautiful blog dedicated to the creation and presentation of delicious food. Please visit it at http://monpetitcafe.blogspot.co.uk/

*Kimberly’s Adaptation*

 Once I poured in the batter I inserted a raspberry into each madeliene before I put them in to bake. When they came out of the oven, I immediately filled a pastry bag with Dickinson’s Lemon Curd and piped it into the center of each on while they were still warm. Then I dusted the top with powdered sugar.

For the second batch I added in some miniature chocolate chips. When they were done, I dusted them with powdered sugar.

I just want to say how much I enjoy sharing my blog with you. There are so many things I want to share but I always run out of space. I hope you like the recipes. I have some other things I plan to share in the future and I would love your feedback and questions.

Until next time…… A Bientot!

                 

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