Friday, May 27, 2016

A new venture in the kitchen

When my cousin Ruth and I were in Paris, we went to a bread baking class.  My baguettes are definitely better since that class. I learned so much! But we didn't just do baguettes. We also did brioche and a couple of other breads.

Yesterday I made brioche dough for the first time. This is all new territory. It was HARD! While I was teaching a class on making baguettes, I remember saying often, "There's nothing to this!  You can do it."  Well, maybe, but I got a taste of how each of my students will feel the first time they make a baguette on their own at home. I am already mentally making my next batch of brioche dough, correcting several mistakes of the novice.

Tonight I rolled out the dough and rolled 2-1/2 sticks of cold butter into it, making layers for a roll called a brioche feuillete.  It is a delightful cross between puff pastry and sweet dough.

I bought rings to put the formed rolls in at Dehillerans in Paris. More about that here. I only had a dozen rings, so with the remaining dough I formed some cinnamon rolls with walnuts and raisins. I'm leaving them in the fridge for a slow rise until morning, when I will be baking them along with six baguettes, all for the farmers market. But the brioche feuillete are in the oven right now. They are so full of butter that they will hold just fine until morning!

Tomorrow morning, the display on the counter at market will be quite nice. Six baguettes, 12 brioche feuilletes, and 12 cinnamon rolls, much more than I usually do. I hope my customers like them. Need to work on sizing. I'm a stickler for weighing things, but I obviously didn't do it with these. They are small, medium and large, not intentionally! Next time . . .

On the cooling rack

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Decisions, decisions . . .

I have been a staunch supporter of Purple Porch since its inception and am a stockholder there. I have also supported them by being a producer at their Wednesday evening farmers market.

When I was on the farm, I had plenty of products to offer. There were organic garden produce, greenhouse plants in the spring, fruit, baked goods made with organic ingredients and items from my line of skin care products from Ceres & Co. (click this link to get to my website, or come on down to the South Bend Farmers Market, 1105 Northside Blvd., South Bend, IN.).

Then I sold the farm. No more plants, no more garden produce, no more sour cherries - the list got much shorter. People come to the Wednesday evening market at the Porch mainly for produce, which I no longer had. But I still had a pretty good following for my baked goods. Adding my line of soaked and dried nuts as well as my Trail Mix, all organic ingredients, made it worth my while to show up most weeks, and I like the community of the producers and customers.

As I wrote recently in this blog Passionate Phoenix can feel it coming on. I am ready to make some changes in my life. For me, anyway, change is the spice of life. But if something new is coming, then I acknowledge that something else has to go. I want time to hit the river in my kayak, throw a line in the water, tend my gardens. No more 12 hour days!

Last night was my last night to bring product to Purple Porch. It was the "something" that had to go. I have mixed emotions about it. I reminded my customers that I am still at the Farmers Market, at least for the time being, and they can always call for special orders.

Au revoir, Purple Porch. I will still be there for your excellent salad and soup bar. I'll stop by on Wednesday evenings to shop, but I won't be behind a table selling my wares anymore. It is bittersweet, but while I am floating on the river from the dam back home, it is a decision I will not be regretting.

Where I want to be

Sharing with the goslings

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

We have a visitor

A baby raccoon was in the yard this afternoon, near the river.  Fred is in the yard with our visitor. They even touched noses when they first saw one another, then both jumped back. Of course by the time I got my camera and got down there, they were keeping their distance.

Here are a few pics.
So little!

Not kissing anymore!

He hissed at me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Morris and Holly, a tale of two cats

A couple of nights ago, Holly Berry came into the bedroom in the night and slept on my chest, with - GASP! - Fred on the bed right beside us. She didn't stay long, but it seemed like a step in the right direction. Then she disappeared for two days. While they poured concrete, I had shut off the automatic dog door so the dogs couldn't mess up the project. But that meant Holly couldn't get in, so I shut off the basement stairs to keep the dogs out of the basement, then turned on the switch for the door so that Holly Berry could get in. I figure a lightweight cat isn't going to ruin the concrete. But this morning, still no Holly Berry, I was getting very worried!

Part of the reason I was more worried than usual was that she had been so friendly a couple of nights ago, and it reminded me of Morris (a cat with about the same attitude as Holly) and our last night together.

More about Morris.  My husband and I were returning home from visiting my sister and were traveling on I-80. We stopped at the rest stop near Morris, Illinois to take a break. There was a cat hanging out there, no collar, very friendly, but apparently abandoned. A worker at the rest stop told us he had been there for several days. No one had come back for him. Of course, what would Susan do? I took him home with us. He was a yellow tiger, and we found him near Morris, Illinois, so of course we named him Morris.

Morris was a good cat, but like Holly Berry, he disappeared from time to time, always to return. Dave and I had a blended family, with four kids between us. In the summer, we were often empty nesters, and Morris took to sleeping in one of the kids' beds through the day, usually with us at night. But when they were home, he got displaced. And he didn't like it. He displayed his displeasure by defecating somewhere other than the litter box or the garden. When he was REALLY pissed off, he would leave a pile at the bottom of the steps into the garage. I truly believe he knew exactly what he was doing!

In the fall, two of the kids were with us all the time, and every other weekend there were four, using up all of the beds in the house. Morris began to stay away longer and longer, sometimes for as long as a week. One night, I remember there was a full moon because I could see him quite well in the yard. I opened the door to let him in for food and water. He came into our bedroom, something that had become quite rare. He walked across both of our chests, and he talked to us, was quite friendly. That morning, we let him out, never to see him again. I truly believe he had come back to tell us good-bye. His frequent and ever lengthening disappearances bespoke of him having found another home. At some point, he decided the other family was a better deal, but was nice enough to come back and thank us for everything - or whatever he was doing that night.

Back to Holly Berry. This morning, she was still nowhere to be found. Had she pulled a Morris and found another home? But good news, her food and water were gone. I went outside and called her, then I called inside the basement. I heard the bell on her collar ring, but couldn't see her  Finally, she sauntered into the laundry room. Where is she hiding now? Weird cat! I do so love her. I hope she is not cultivating a new home, one without an annoying dog in residence!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Concrete was poured today, now aging, just like me.

Well, I'm walking dogs because they can't go out their door, across the concrete, until tomorrow afternoon. Just what I need - more walking! The guys carried the lawnmower out of the basement to the yard, so I was able to mow. Walking behind a mower to do a half acre lawn is invigorating. I won't have to see my watch yelling at me because I wasn't active enough today!

The concrete looks great. What a difference it makes. Tashi's dirt bed is gone, and no more mud will be tracked into the basement. I'll have no excuse for a dirty basement floor anymore.

So here's the finished product, as well as a shot of all of the stuff that will have to be carried back to the space under the deck on Saturday.

Neatness counts

The guys did a great job.

All of this can be moved back under the deck Saturday.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The mint garden

Last year I planted several mint plants under the play platform. This spring, I discovered only one had survived. You know the old joke, "How do you get rid of mint?  Move!"  I don't have to. It grew beautifully at my house in Chicago, in fact pretty much took over the garden, but I never successfully grew it on the farm. The soil there was very sandy, and I was hoping this black soil around my house on the river would be more conducive to its growth.

Only one mint plant left from last summer? I think I know my problem. I have a veritable thicket of violets. Yes, they are pretty, but they take over just like my mint did in Chicago. So this morning I dug up every last violet plant in what I hope will be my mint garden, exposing my one and lonely mint plant from last year. Take a look at that mass of violets at the far right.

About two thirds of the violets gone
All cleaned out
The only, lonely 2015 mint plant
I bought four new mint plants at the market Saturday - one each of chocolate mint, orange mint, spearmint and peppermint. I'm going to plant them in this nice bare soil and move some of the old stones we took out from under the deck, where the concrete will be poured tomorrow, to make stepping stones in the mint garden. Next year, will it be beautiful, bountiful and violet free? Hope springs eternal.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Usual Saturday morning . . .

Six baguettes are about ready to go in the oven. While waiting for bread to rise and bake, I'm scrambling to make up labels for and fill essential oil bottles for market. All the other printing got done last night, including our newly designed Ceres & Co. labels for our bags.

Ceres the Goddess - holding the dwarf planet Ceres

Hope we have a good day at market. Phyllis is coming in for Saturday help, and she is making popcorn. I'm making Mexican hot chocolate. Free samples today! People love our popcorn samples, and I'm hoping the scent of freshly popped corn will get people to my booth.  At this time of year, everyone is buying plants for their gardens. While I don't miss the loooooooooooong hours in the greenhouse (well, maybe a little), I do miss having people lined up at Ceres & Co.'s booth for their organic heirloom tomato plants. So today hopefully they will stop by for organic Mexican hot chocolate and Ladyfinger popcorn samples. Maybe I will see you at the Farmers Market today! We're at 1105 Northside Blvd., South Bend, IN