Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas

Christmas is the time of the year where you gather together with family, friends and a great dinner.  A time to enjoy all these important things in life. This year was no exception.
I was very excited to put my brand new range to the test for Christmas dinner! 
I made a great menu to entertain my family and friends.  It was going to be a total of 5 of us but still I was planning to cook for 12!  What's the fun if you don't have any left-overs??

Menu was as follows:
Appetizers: Oysters and Foie Gras
Main course: Roasted turkey, mashed potato, chorizo stuffing, brussel sprouts in dijon sauce and gravy
Cheese and kale salad
Dessert: Buche de Noel

On Christmas morning after all the presents excitment, a quick breakfast bite and a surprise visit by Santa (compliments of our fire department), I moved on to the kitchen to start this fabulous dinner.

First, I started with the dessert, cake got baked and rolled, the chocolate cream started to cool down, I even attempted to make mushroom meringues for the decoration.  I placed them in the oven, and moved on to the chorizo stuffing when all of the sudden the power went completely OUT!  What? It is almost 11am and no power!!!!  What is one to do!  Scream, panic, run around, cry???? STOP!  No one panic, I will not be defeated so easily...Dinner will go on and Christmas will be amazing.
First, let's think of what can be used...I have a gas stove so I should still be able to use it, right? Well, I guess it needs electricity to ignite, no luck there....
Let's move to plan  B...Wood stove is on and hot, perfect place to boil the potatoes, the propane tank for the gas grill is fairly full, plus I have a side burner...We are saved...Food will be served!  Roasted the brioche and got the homemade sourdough baguette baking on the barbecue and continued cooking the stuffing thanks to the side burner. Then I prepared the Brussel sprouts. 


I decided to forgo the turkey at this time as it would be too demanding cutting parts of the raw turkey and grill them on the barbecue, no time for it.
My friends arrived on time for the party with the oysters, cheese and fabulous wine...
Let the party begin, we sat in a moderatly dark living room with candles as our only source of light (very romantic).
The oysters were shucked by the guys with the help of an LED lamp.
Before dinner I reheated everything on the wood stove and we moved to the dining room....As we sat down and started dinner, the lights came back on!  it was 5.52pm!  Woo hoo we pulled it off and had a fabulous time...So much for testing my range!  I guess I need to organize another dinner party soon.
  
How was your Christmas?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Brioche

Christmas is just around the corner and this year I decided to make a chorizo stuffing, I made it last year and it was a great success.  This stuffing calls for brioche rather than the traditional bread stuffing or cornbread, which being from France brings some of my roots right back in my food!
Of course, I could simply go to the store and buy the brioche but what fun would that be.  Instead, I challenged myself to make my own brioche.  I have tried this years ago and was moderately successful.  So here I am again and this time I am hoping for a great success.  Below is the recipe I am following:

Brioche dough (makes about 2 loaves)
3/4 cup lukewarm water (milk can be used instead)
2 1/4 teaspoons granulated yeast (1 packet)
3/4 tablespoon kosher salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup honey (sugar can be used instead)
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Mix all ingredients but the flour.
Add in the flour, using a spoon until all of the flour is incorporated.
Cover, and allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours.
Bake at 400F for 10 min and reduce to 350F for 20-30 min.
Let it cool on a wire rack.

The dough is very sticky once all ingredients are mixed together. 
Once the dough has rested, work it for another 10 min.
 
Form four balls (per loaf) and place them in a pan.


Et voila, homemade brioche!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Do you make a list of resolutions or goals for the upcoming year?  I do make a short list usually of things that I would like to accomplish within the upcoming year.  I try keeping the items to under 10 to make it easier to achieve.
This year I am highly focusing on my "metro farm", I am on the quest to grow more and become more self sufficient over the years.  So here is my list:
 
1) Start a blog or enhance this blog should I say. 
 
2) Expend my edible garden: I currently have about 4 functional raised beds and the goal is to add another 6.
 
3) Record my experience - I want to be more hands on on the garden and take notes on what's working and what's not.  I am challenge with the amount of sun my garden gets so I have to plan really carefully around it.
 
4) Make more cheese and yogurt - I took a class at PCC to learn how to make cheese and really enjoyed the experience.  I want to keep on mastering my skills.
 
5) Get 4 more chicken - Since my chicken venture started last year and turned out to be a fantastic and easy experience, I am thinking of adding 4 more chicks to the flock. 
 
6) Learn more about bees - I am interested in eventually keeping some bees in the garden for multiple reasons (ensuring they do not extinct, pollination and honey!).  I am taking a class with Seattle Tilth in January to learn more about bee keeping. 
 
7) Save more money - I always enjoy finding ways to save more money and live frugally.  It's also a way to avoid unnecessary stress in my life.
 
8) Eat less meat - I am not looking at turning my family into vegetarians but would like us to be less dependant on meat products.  It is also to be a bit healthier.  The goal is to have two or three "meat less" days a week.
 
Here it is, this year I have 8 items on my list, I think this is very manageable and achievable. 
What are your goals and resolutions for 2012?

Friday, December 16, 2011

The chicken coop

A few years ago, I was walking in our neighborhood with my husband and daugther and came across a neighbor who had chicken.  After chatting for a while with her, I became more and more interested in that venture.  My daughter was certainly one of the best motivators.  She could not wait to see the neighbor's chicken every time we would pass by.  I thought to myself that this is something I could do...A few classes and books later, I decided it was time.  For my birthday last March, I asked for chicks and the supplies needed to start.  Here are the chicks: Gossie (black sexlink), Rosie (braham), Sweeney (speckled sussex) and Paulette (Partridge Plymouth Rock).
The next step was to build a coop!  I had about 6 weeks to get this accomplished and get the chicks out of the house.  I decided to go big!  I build a 4x8 coop with a 8x8 covered run.  Although I started with 4 chicks, my intent was to be able to accommodate more over time.  In my city, I can have as many chicks as my coop can accommodate! 
Here is the coop:

 I buried cinder block all throughout the perimeter of the coop and run with chicken wire under.
I used sticky vinyl tiles for the flooring for easy clean up. 
I put 3 windows total in the coop to give plenty of light for the girls but to also be able to see them.
 Here is the covered run.

Here is the finished coop. I reinforced the perimeter of the run with an additional 2 feet high hardware cloth (we have lots of raccoons in our area).
The goal of the coop was also to allow me to get in it.  I use a deep litter method which turns out to be really easy to maintain.